astronomy

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. Alfonso was born in Toledo, Spain. It is not much known about his early life. However, it is widely believed that he started his career as a soldier when he was…
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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 was born and died in Saalfeld, Thuringia, Germany. His father Johannes Reinhold was a tax collector. In 1530 went to Wittenberg to study at the Academia Leucorea…
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Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

Heinrich Olbers (1758-1840) 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 was born…
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John Goodricke and the Variable Star of Beta Persei

John Goodricke and the Variable Star of Beta Persei

(1764 – 1786) Source: Sky and Telescope (November, 1978) 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. Not much is known about John Goodricke. Clear is only that the astronomer was deaf and passed away…
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Sir Bernard Lovell and the Radioastronomy

Sir Bernard Lovell and the Radioastronomy

Sir Bernard Lovell (1913-2012) 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. Born at Oldland Common, Bristol in 1913, as the son of…
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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. 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 in Southern California,…
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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 was born in Laon, a medieval town in the Picardy region of northern France, as the son…
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Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi – The Prince of Astrologers

Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi – The Prince of Astrologers

Probably on August 10, 787, Persian astrologer, astronomer, and Islamic philosopher Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi (Abu Ma’shar Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Balkhi) was born. He is thought to be the greatest astrologer of the Abbasid court in Baghdad. He wrote a number of practical manuals on astrology that profoundly influenced Muslim intellectual history and, through translations, that of western Europe and Byzantium. We’ve realized that our daily blog on History of Science somehow…
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Maria Mitchell and the Comets

Maria Mitchell and the Comets

Maria Mitchell (1814-1889) 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“. Maria Mitchell was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA, among nine brothers and sisters to William Mitchell and Lydia Coleman Mitchell, both Unusual for that time, Maria Mitchell’s parents as Quakers valued education and insisted on giving her the same quality…
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Friedrich Bessel and the Distances of Stars

Friedrich Bessel and the Distances of Stars

Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel (1784-1846) [1] 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 was born in Minden, Westphalia (today Germany), as second son of a civil servant. Bessel attended the Gymnasium in Minden for four years but he did…
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