astronomy

James Gregory and the Gregorian Telescope

James Gregory and the Gregorian Telescope

In November 1638, Scottish mathematician and astronomer James Gregory was born. Gregory described an early practical design for the reflecting telescope – the Gregorian telescope – and made advances in trigonometry, discovering infinite series representations for several trigonometric functions. James Gregory – Youth and Education James Gregory was born at Drumoak, Aberdeenshire, UK, the youngest of the 3 children of John Gregory, an Episcopalian Church of Scotland minister. Initially he was educated at…
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Harlow Shapley and the Milky Way

Harlow Shapley and the Milky Way

On November 2, 1885, American astronomer Harlow Shapley was born. Shapley is best know for having correctly estimated the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and the sun’s position within it. Harlow Shapley was born in Nashville, Missouri and dropped out of school after fifth grade. However, later on he managed to return to school and complete a six-year high school program in only two years. At the age of 22, he…
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The Discovery of the Uranus Moons Ariel and Umbriel

The Discovery of the Uranus Moons Ariel and Umbriel

On October 24, 1851, English merchant and astronomer William Lassell discovered Ariel and Umbriel, two moons of planet Uranus. Besides, he also discovered the Neptune moon Triton and the Saturn moon Hyperion. William Lassell was born in Bolton and educated in Rochdale. He was apprenticed to a merchant in Liverpool and later became a beer brewer and hobby astronomer. Lassell built himself an observatory in West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool with…
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Asaph Hall’s Achievements in Astronomy

Asaph Hall’s Achievements in Astronomy

On October 15, 1829, American astronomer Asaph Hall III was born, who is most famous for having discovered the moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, in 1877. He determined the orbits of satellites of other planets and of double stars, the rotation of Saturn, and the mass of Mars. Asaph Hall was born in Goshen, Connecticut and due to the early death of his father, Hall had to leave school at the…
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Al-Biruni and his Contributions to Astronomy

Al-Biruni and his Contributions to Astronomy

On September 4, 973, Muslim scholar Al-Biruni was born. He is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He is referred to as the founder of Indology for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India. Abu Rayhan al-Biruni was born in Khwarazm now better known as Karakalpakstan.…
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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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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. George Biddell Airy showed talents in mathematics very early at school and it is believed that he studied for instance arithmetic, double-entry book keeping and how to…
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Henrietta Swan Leavitt and the Light of the Cepheids

Henrietta Swan Leavitt and the Light of the Cepheids

On July 4, 1868, American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born. She is best known for her discovery of the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Based on her luminosity-period relation for Cepheids, Edwin Hubble was able to determine that the universe is expanding. Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, as daughter among seven children of Congregational church minister George Roswell Leavitt and his wife…
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William Parsons and his Very Large Telescopes

William Parsons and his Very Large Telescopes

On June 17, 1800, Irish astronomer William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, was born. As an astronomer, he had several telescopes built, among them his 72-inch telescope, built in 1845 and colloquially known of as the “Leviathan of Parsonstown“, which was the world’s largest telescope, in terms of aperture size, until the early 20th century. In 1848, he found and named the Crab Nebula (because he thought it resembled a crab), by which name…
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The Life and Work of Georg von Peuerbach

The Life and Work of Georg von Peuerbach

On May 30, 1423, Austrian astronomer, mathematician and instrument maker Georg von Peuerbach was born. He is best known for his streamlined presentation of Ptolemaic Astronomy in the Theoricae Novae Planetarum. Furthermore, he promoted the use of Arabic numerals (introduced 250 years earlier in place of Roman numerals), especially in a table of sines he calculated with unprecedented accuracy. There is not much known about Peuerbach’s early life. However, he probably entered the…
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