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In 1874 and 1882, the US Naval Observatory (USNO) sent multiple teams to time the transit of Venus with the aid of photographic equipment.  Expedition photographs reproduced here are in the collection of the US Naval Observatory Library.  

sawhorse 1415
whaler 01416
skiff 01419
seal 01430
boy 01418
sighting 01423
man 01417

observatory 01429
tripod 01431
brooklyn 01406
usno-practice_obs01401.jpg (1304473 bytes)  
practice_obs 01401
usno-ship01402.jpg (1144619 bytes) 
ship 01402

The images below were digitally photographed at an open table, so the quality is somewhat compromised and reflections occasionally appear.  That said, most of the pictures to which you can link remain as large jpeg files.

usno-patagonia01405.jpg (1354981 bytes) 
patagonia 1405
usno-macabre01412.jpg (1410181 bytes)  
macabre 01412
usno-wiring01425.jpg (1297231 bytes) 
wiring 01425
station01411.jpg (1386412 bytes) 
station 01411
usno-vladivostok01407.jpg (182134 bytes)
 vladivostok 01407
usno-scope_inside01414.jpg (80340 bytes)
scope inside 01414
usno-brickhous01426.jpg (1423926 bytes) 
brickhouse 01426
nagasaki01413.jpg (1274337 bytes) 
low-water 01413
usno-instrument01393.jpg (170533 bytes)
instrument 01393
usno-barrel_seat01420.jpg (1378212 bytes)
barrel_seat 01420
usno-inlet01427.jpg (167668 bytes) 
inlet 01427
usno-group01389.jpg (1361318 bytes) 
group 01389
rig 01410
usno-bird01421.jpg (106815 bytes)  
bird 01421
vlads01408.jpg (168216 bytes) 
vlads 01408
usno-helio01392.jpg (1263186 bytes) 
helio 01392
usno-heliometer01395.jpg (1190712 bytes) 
heliometer 01395
usno-multihuts01397.jpg (1417760 bytes) 
multihuts 01397
usno-heliopier01399.jpg (22283 bytes) 
helio_pier 01399
usno-old_site01400.jpg (1325044 bytes) 
old_site 01400
usno-tent01403.jpg (1282060 bytes)
tent 01403
usno-waterside01437.jpg (15024 bytes)  
waterside 01437
usno-bighat.jpg (22752 bytes)  
bighat 01436
usno-couple.jpg (24846 bytes)  
couple 01435
usno-barrelrack.jpg (31729 bytes)  
barrelrack 01434
usno-stump.jpg (22523 bytes)  
stump 01433
usno-chatham_shed01432.jpg (1305534 bytes)  
chatham_shed 01432


Transit of Venus Huts ere

Additional images from the George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive are available at  Shown is "Transit of Venus Huts erected at Naval Observatory; transparency, collodion on glass." 
An original heliostat from the USNO expeditions; in a private collection. 
Diagrams of heliostats from the USNO expeditions; images provided by Robert Havlik.

Below are images of the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

usno-entrance01441.jpg (310295 bytes) usno-clock01326.jpg (23604 bytes) usno-dip01331.jpg (276806 bytes) usno-stereoscopes01370.jpg (214041 bytes)
usno-boxes01336.jpg (24631 bytes) usno-6boxes01341.jpg (24353 bytes) usno-kerguelen_box01335.jpg (35184 bytes) usno-openbox01339.jpg (1407094 bytes)
usno-queenstown01386.jpg (21506 bytes) usno-computations01338.jpg (122981 bytes) usno-frontispiece01361.jpg (100996 bytes) usno-diagram01337.jpg (1147573 bytes)
usno-piers01390.jpg (47146 bytes)   usno-instument_diagram01394.jpg (144879 bytes) usno-transit_instr01366.jpg (42522 bytes)
usno-grounds01328.jpg (1463572 bytes) usno-alvinclark-profile01333.jpg (34443 bytes) usno-alvinclark01332.jpg (1234840 bytes) usno-clockface01327.jpg (30272 bytes)
usno-scope01321.jpg (36892 bytes)      

Additional USNO artifacts can be viewed at

The following text and images are courtesy of the U.S. Naval Observatory Library; used with permission.

Transit of Venus Plates

Transit of Venus Plates - 1882
The site where these plates were taken is unknown.

Images from photographic plates of the Transit of Venus (Venus crossing the face of the Sun), a very rare phenomenon that last occurred in 1874 and 1882. Wet bromo-iodide plates were used in 1874, but by 1882 dry collodion emulsion plates were available. The Naval Observatory and Transit of Venus Commission sent 8 parties around the world to observe each of the transits; the results were important for determining the scale of the solar system. Only 11 plates survive from the American 1882 expeditions; none of the plates from the American 1874 transit expeditions has survived. The next transits of Venus occur in 2004 and 2012.

For details of and more images from the 19th century USNO expeditions, either buy "The U. S. Naval Observatory And the American Transit of Venus Expeditions of 1874 and 1882," Sky and Ocean Joined:  The U. S. Naval Observatory, 1830-2000 by Steven J. Dick (Cambridge University Press, 2003), or see online Chapter 7 from the book. 

Thanks go to Brenda Corbin and Steven Dick for their kind assistance at the US Naval Observatory.

In preparation for the 1882 transit of Venus expeditions, the United States Naval Observatory printed a publication listing the detailed duties of each member of the expedition team.  (See "Instructions" page.)  Based on the experiences of the 1874 expeditions eight years prior, the book explains what the observer may expect to see and how to discern the instant of contact.

Copyright 2003-2008 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.