astronomy

John Goodricke and the Variable Star of Beta Persei

John Goodricke and the Variable Star of Beta Persei

On September 17, 1764, English amateur astronomer John Goodricke was born. He is best known for his observations of the variable star Algol (Beta Persei) in 1782. He was also first to correctly propose that the distant sun is periodically occulted by a dark body. John Goodricke Background Not much is known about John Goodricke. Clear is only that the astronomer was deaf and passed away very early at the age of…
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Sir Bernard Lovell and the Radioastronomy

Sir Bernard Lovell and the Radioastronomy

On August 31, 1913, English physicist and radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell was born. He was a pioneer in radar and radio telescopes and especially renowned for creating the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, the only antenna that could track rockets in space in the early years of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. “Out of all possible universes, the only one which can exist, in the sense that…
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Fred Whipple and the Dirty Snowballs

Fred Whipple and the Dirty Snowballs

On August 30, 2004, American astronomer Fred Lawrence Whipple passed away. Amongst his achievements, he discovered some asteroids and comets, came up with the “dirty snowball” cometary hypothesis, and designed the Whipple shield. A Thriving Astronomer Fred Whipple was born on November 5, 1906, in Red Oak, Iowa, as the son of a farmer. An early bout with polio ended his ambition of being a professional tennis player. Whipple studied at Occidental College…
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Voyager and the Exploration of Saturn

Voyager and the Exploration of Saturn

On August 25, 1981, American space probe Voyager 2 passed Saturn and transmitted stunning pictures of the ring planet. The space probe had been launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually to push forward into interstellar space. Until today, operating for more than 30 years the spacecraft still receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network, a world-wide network of large…
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Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

On August 16, 1744, French astronomer and surveyor Pierre François André Méchain was born. Together with Charles Messier, was a major contributor to the early study of deep sky objects and comets. He participated in the Meridian survey expedition in 1792 that produced measurements, which have served as the fundament of the metric system. Pierre Méchain – Civil Engineering and Astronomy Pierre Méchain was born in Laon, a medieval town in the Picardy…
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Maria Mitchell and “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”

Maria Mitchell and “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”

On August 1, 1814, American astronomer Maria Mitchell was born who, in 1847, by using a telescope, discovered a comet which as a result became known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet“. „We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.” – Maria Mitchell Maria Mitchell – Youth and Education Maria Mitchell was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA, among nine brothers and sisters…
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Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel and the Distances of Stars

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel and the Distances of Stars

On July 22, 1784, German mathematician and astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel was born. He is probably best known for his works in mathematics, where he discovered the eponymous Bessel-functions, which are critical for the solution of certain differential equations. Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel – Youth and Education Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel was born in Minden, Westfalia, as the second child of a large family with six daughters and three sons. His mother Friederike Ernestine…
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Jean Picard and his Love for Accuracy

Jean Picard and his Love for Accuracy

On July 21, 1620, French astronomer, cartographer and hydraulic engineer Jean-Félix Picard was born. He is regarded as the founder of modern astronomy in France. He introduced new methods, improved the old instruments, and added new devices, such as Huygens‘ pendulum clock to record times and time intervals. Background Jean Picard Jean-Félix Picard was born as a son of a bookseller and was allowed to study at the Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand, which…
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A. E. Douglass and the Dendrochronology

A. E. Douglass and the Dendrochronology

On July 5, 1867, American astronomer and archeologist A. E. (Andrew Ellicott) Douglass was born. He coined the name dendrochronology for tree-ring dating, a field he originated while working at the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, by his discovery a correlation between tree rings and the sunspot cycle. A. E. Douglass Background A. E. Douglass was not the first, who suggested that a tree’s rings could determine its age. The first known record of…
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Charles Messier and the Discovery of Nebulae

Charles Messier and the Discovery of Nebulae

On June 26, 1730, French astronomer Charles Messier was born. He is best known for his publication of an astronomical catalogue consisting of nebulae and star clusters that came to be known as the 110 “Messier objects”. The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters such as himself, distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky. “What caused me to undertake the catalog was…
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