astronomy

ALMA – the largest and most expensive ground-based astronomical project

ALMA – the largest and most expensive ground-based astronomical project

On October 3, 2011, first images produced by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array were released to the press. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. ALMA is currently the largest and most expensive ground-based astronomical project, costing between US$1.4 and 1.5 billion. The ALMA Interferometer ALMA is an interferometer, i.e. many small radio telescopes working together as a single large…
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Sir Martin Ryle’s Breakthrough in Radio Astronomy with Aperture Synthesis

Sir Martin Ryle’s Breakthrough in Radio Astronomy with Aperture Synthesis

On September 27, 1918, English radio astronomer and Nobel Laureate Sir Martin Ryle was born. Ryle developed revolutionary radio telescope systems and used them for accurate location and imaging of weak radio sources. He was Astronomer Royal from 1972 to 1982 and shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974 with Antony Hewish, the first Nobel prize awarded in recognition of astronomical research. “I think that the event which, more than anything else, led me…
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The first Observation of Gravitational Waves

The first Observation of Gravitational Waves

On September 14, 2015, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration observed gravitational waves from a 410 megaparsec (1.3 billion light years) distant merger of two black holes. Previously, gravitational waves had only been inferred only indirectly, via their effect on the timing of pulsars in binary star systems. It was also the first observation of a binary black hole merger, demonstrating both the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systens, and the fact that…
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Leonid Kulik and the Mysterious Tunguska Event

Leonid Kulik and the Mysterious Tunguska Event

On August 19, 1883, Russian mineralogist Leonid Alekseyevich Kulik was born. Kulik is noted for his research in meteorites. In 1927, Kulik conducted the first scientific expedition (for which records survive) to study the Tunguska meteor impact site, the largest impact event in recorded history, which had occurred on 30 June 1908.[1] Leonid Kulik – Bachground Leonid Kulik was born in Tartu, Estonia, which was later to become part of the Soviet Union, and was…
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Pierre Janssen and the Discovery of Helium

Pierre Janssen and the Discovery of Helium

When watching the total eclipse on August 18, 1868 in Madras, British India, French astronomer Pierre Janssen discovered the new chemical element Helium. Janssen also is credited with discovering the gaseous nature of the solar chromosphere. Youth and Education Janssen was born in Paris in 1824. An accident when he was young left him extremely lame and it is for this reason that he was unable to go to school. He studied at…
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Helen Swayer Hogg and the Globular Clusters

Helen Swayer Hogg and the Globular Clusters

On August 1, 1905, American-Canadian astronomer Helen Sawyer Hogg was born. Hogg is noted for pioneering research into globular clusters (stars with cyclical changes of brightness found within huge, dense conglomerations of stars located in the outer halo of the Milky Way galaxy) and variable stars. She was the first female president of several astronomical organizations and a notable woman of science in a time when many universities would not award scientific…
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The Astronomical Achievements of Sir George Biddell Airy

The Astronomical Achievements of Sir George Biddell Airy

On July 27, 1801, English mathematician, astronomer, and Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy was born. His many achievements include work on planetary orbits, measuring the mean density of the Earth, a method of solution of two-dimensional problems in solid mechanics and, in his role as Astronomer Royal, establishing Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian. “It is not simply that a clear understanding is acquired of the movements of the great bodies which we regard as the system of the…
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Jérôme Lalande – Astronomer in Times of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution

Jérôme Lalande – Astronomer in Times of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution

On July 11, 1732, French astronomer, freemason and writer Jérôme Lalande was born. Lalande is best known for having determined the Moon’s parallax from Berlin for the French Academy in 1751. His planetary tables, into which he introduced corrections for mutual perturbations, were the best available up to the end of the 18th century. Jérôme Lalande – Early Years Jérôme Lalande first studied at the Jesuit College in Lyon and later went…
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George Ellery Hale –  Large Telescopes and the Spectroheliograph

George Ellery Hale – Large Telescopes and the Spectroheliograph

On June 29, 1868, American solar astronomer George Ellery Hale was born. He is best known for his discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots, and as the leader or key figure in the planning or construction of several world-leading telescopes, including the 200-inch Hale reflecting telescope at Palomar Observatory. Like buried treasures, the outposts of the universe have beckoned to the adventurous from immemorial times. Princes and potentates, political or industrial, equally…
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Alan Sandage and the Discovery of the Quasars

Alan Sandage and the Discovery of the Quasars

On June 18, 1926, American astronomer Allan Rex Sandage was born. Sandage determined the first reasonably accurate values for the Hubble constant and the age of the universe. Foremost, he is also credited with the discovery of the 3C 48 quasar, i.e. quasi-stellar radio sources which are the most energetic and distant members of a class of objects called active galactic nuclei. The Discovery of Quasars Between 1917 and 1922, it became…
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