astronomy

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc and the Discovery of the Orion Nebula

Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc and the Discovery of the Orion Nebula

Around November 25, 1610, French astronomer and savant Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc “discovered” the Orion Nebula, a diffuse nebula situated south of Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae, and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. “But see, Orion sheds unwholesome dews; Arise, the pines a noxious shade diffuse; Sharp Boreas blows, and nature feels decay, Time conquers all, and we must…
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Alfonso X from Spain and the Alfonsine Tables

Alfonso X from Spain and the Alfonsine Tables

On November 23, 1221, Spanish King and astronomer Alfonso X of Castile was born, who encouraged the preparation of revised planetary tables. These “Alfonsine Tables” a revision and improvement of the Ptolemaic tables, were the best available during the Middle Ages. “Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.” – Alfonso X, after studying Ptolemy’s treatise on astronomy.[10] Alfonso…
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The Planetary Tables of Erasmus Reinhold

The Planetary Tables of Erasmus Reinhold

On October 22, 1511, German astronomer and mathematician Erasmus Reinhold was born. He is considered to be the most influential astronomical pedagogue of his generation. Furthermore, he is best known for his carefully calculated first set of planetary tables applying Copernican theory, published in 1551. Erasmus Reinhold Background Erasmus Reinhold was born and died in Saalfeld, Thuringia, Germany. His father Johannes Reinhold was a tax collector. In 1530 went to Wittenberg to study at…
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Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and the Evolution of Stars

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and the Evolution of Stars

On October 19, 1910, Indian-American astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born. He won the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics together with William Alfred Fowler for key discoveries that led to the currently accepted theory on the later evolutionary stages of massive stars. Actually, winning Nobel Prizes in physics must lie somehow in the family of Chandrasekhar, because his uncle Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman won the Nobel Prize for Physics already in…
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Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

On October 11, 1758, German physician and astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers was born. Besides his discovery of coments and minor planets, Olbers is best known for his new method to calculate the velocity of falling stars. Maybe you have also heard of the famous Olbers’ paradox, which asks “why is the night sky dark if there are so many bright stars all around to light it?” Heinrich Olbers Background Heinrich Olbers was born…
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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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