Soon afterward, Maskelyne returned to England where he became astronomer royal, and Mason and Dixon—now evidently more seasoned—set off for four long and often perilous years surveying their way through 244 miles of dangerous American wilderness to settle a boundary dispute between the estates of William Penn and Lord Baltimore and their respective colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The result was the famous Mason and Dixon line, which later took on symbolic importance as the dividing line between the slave and free states. (Although the line was their principal task, they also contributed several astronomical surveys, including one of the century's most accurate measurements of a degree of meridian—an achievement that brought them far more acclaim in England than the settling of a boundary dispute between spoiled aristocrats.)
Back in Europe, Maskelyne and his counterparts in Germany and France were forced to the conclusion that the transit measurements of 1761 were essentially a failure. One of the problems, ironically, was that there were too many observations, which when brought together often proved contradictory and impossible to resolve.
The successful charting of a Venusian transit fell instead to a little-known Yorkshire-born sea captain named James Cook, who watched the 1769 transit from a sunny hilltop in Tahiti, and then went on to chart and claim Australia for the British crown. Upon his return there was now enough information for the French astronomer Joseph Lalande to calculate that the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun was a little over 150 million kilometers. (Two further transits in the nineteenth century allowed astronomers to put the figure at 149.59 million kilometers, where it has remained ever since. The precise distance, we now know, is 149.597870691 million kilometers.) The Earth at last had a position in space.
成功绘制金星凌日图的却是一位不知名的约克郡出生的船长，名叫詹姆斯·库克。他在塔希提岛一个阳光普照的山顶上观看了1769年的凌日现象，接着又绘制了澳大利亚的地图，宣布它为英国皇家殖民地。他一回到国内，就听说法国天文学家约瑟夫·拉朗德已经计算出，地球到太阳的平均距离略略超过1.5亿公里。（19世纪又发生两次凌日现象，天文学由此得出的距离是1.4959亿公里，这个数字一直保持到现在。我们现在知道，确切的距离应该是1.495 978 706 91亿公里。）地球在太空中终于有了个方位。