When I first saw this I thought “what a stupid place to put a telescope.” The Pier Head in Liverpool is illuminated by a gazillion lights. You’ll never see any stars here,” so I decided to put my investigating ‘ead on (Don’t think Worzel ever had one of them.)
It turned out to be a sculpture entitled “Heaven and Earth” and was in honour of one Mr Jeremiah Horrocks, born in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1618.
As I’d never heard of him it was off to the library to find out. It turns out that Jeremiah was the first person to correctly calculate the transit of Venus.
As I started my research it dawned on me just how significant this observation was to astronomy and the wider scientific community. It was this work that lead to other scientists being able to measure the size and position of planets, and indeed the size of the Solar System.
Sadly, Horrocks died in 1641 aged only 22. It can only be speculated on as to what future discoveries he would have made. I would go so far as to say that Horrocks could well have ended up as a mentor to Issac Newton.
At the top of the piece is a hand powered orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system.) The planet Venus has been replaced by a copper version of Horrocks whose wings flap and circles the sun.
However on the number of occasions I have visited the piece no matter how fast I turn the handle Horrocks refuses to move. There are two possibilities: one, it only works when a transit of Venus is occurring (next one due 2117, press the follow button and I’ll post a blog as it happens…) OR it’s bust !!!
Another feature it’s suppose to have is a short animation visible from one of the eyepieces, but that doesn’t work either. There is copy of the Jeremiah Horrocks Animation on You Tube.
The telescope is in front and to the left of the Beatles statue as you look towards the River Mersey.
Without wishing to appear lazy, but the life and work of Horrocks cannot be adequately conveyed in a short post. It had already started to stretch over more screens than I wanted to. So rather than ignore the aim of this blog (not to make history to mind-numbing and tedious) I have put this to one side. I might come back to the topic later.
If you would like more info however, I have linked to several written pieces and videos. See “Related Info” below.
- Jeremiah Horrocks Bio
- Jeremiah Horrocks Video (Sound quality poor but audible, stars a young Peter Davison)
- Jeremiah Horrocks Animation
- Transit of Venus
- Video of Transit of Venus 2012
Please feel free to comment, make suggestions and leave any questions you may have.