astronomy

The Astronomical Machines of Johannes Stöffler

The Astronomical Machines of Johannes Stöffler

On February 16, 1531, German mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, priest, and maker of astronomical instruments Johannes Stöffler passed away. Stöffler was the first professor of astronomy at the University of Tübingen. At the end of the 1490s, Stöffler calculated a continuation of Regiomontan’s ephemeris [1] and constructed an equator for Johannes Reuchlin – an analog calculating machine for the direct location of a planet‘s position at a given point in time. Early Years Johannes Stöffler…
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Mariner 10 and the Swing-By at Planet Venus

Mariner 10 and the Swing-By at Planet Venus

On February 5, 1974, space probe Mariner 10 passed by at planet Venus shooting 4,165 high resolution pictures and continued its journey to Mercury, using the slingshot maneuver. The Mariner Program Mariner 10 was the last of NASA‘s Mariner program and executed to measure the environment of Mercury as well as its surface and its atmosphere. The spacecraft was the second of all time to perform the gravitational slingshot maneuver, using Venus to…
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Caroline Herschel – The Comet Sweeper

Caroline Herschel – The Comet Sweeper

On January 9, 1848, Caroline Lucretia Herschel, German-British astronomer and sister of astronomer Sir William Herschel, passed away at age 98. She is best know for the discovery of several comets, in particular the periodic comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, which bears her name. Early Years Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born in the German town of Hanover on 16 March 1750. She was the eighth child and fourth daughter of Isaac Herschel, a self-taught oboist,…
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The Discovery of the Four Galilean Moons

The Discovery of the Four Galilean Moons

On January 7, 1610, physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei turned his new telescope to the nocturnal sky to watch the planet Jupiter and discovered the eponymous four moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganimede, and Callisto.[1,2] The Telescope Based only on uncertain descriptions of the first practical telescope which the Dutch lens maker Hans Lippershey [3] tried to patent in the Netherlands in 1608, Galileo Galilei, in the following year was able to improve…
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The Celestial Mechanics of Anders Johan Lexell

The Celestial Mechanics of Anders Johan Lexell

On December 24, 1740, Finnish-Swedish astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Anders Johan Lexell was born. Lexell made important discoveries in polygonometry and celestial mechanics; the latter led to a comet named in his honour. La Grande Encyclopédie states that he was the prominent mathematician of his time who contributed to spherical trigonometry with new and interesting solutions, which he took as a basis for his research of comet and planet motion. His name…
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James Challis and his failure to discover the planet Neptune

James Challis and his failure to discover the planet Neptune

On December 12, 1803, English clergyman, physicist and astronomer James Challis was born. Challis investigated a wide range of physical phenomena though made few lasting contributions outside astronomy. He is best remembered for his missed opportunity to discover the planet Neptune in 1846. Early Years James Challis was born in Braintree, Essex, UK, where his father, John Challis, was a stonemason.After attending Braintree School, the Revd Daniel Copsey’s school, Braintree, and Mill…
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Russian Polymath Mikhail Lomonosov

Russian Polymath Mikhail Lomonosov

On November 19, 1711, Russian polymath, scientist and writer Mikhail Lomonosov was born. Lomonosov made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the Law of Mass Conservation in chemical reactions. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and others. Lomonosov was also a poet and influenced the formation of the modern Russian literary language. Family Background…
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William Lassell and the Discovery of Triton

William Lassell and the Discovery of Triton

On October 10, 1846, English merchant and astronomer William Lassell discovered Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, just 17 days after the discovery of Neptune itself by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle. Besides, Lassell also discovered Ariel and Umbriel, two moons of planet Uranus [3], as well the Saturn moon Hyperion. Lassell started a brewery business about 1825, after a seven-year apprenticeship. He became interested in astronomy and, in 1844, began construction of…
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Benjamin Gould and the Stars of the Southern Hemisphere

Benjamin Gould and the Stars of the Southern Hemisphere

On September 27, 1824, American astronomer Benjamin Apthorp Gould was born. Gould is noted for creating the Astronomical Journal, discovering the Gould Belt, and for founding of the Argentine National Observatory and the Argentine National Weather Service. His star catalogs helped fix the list of constellations of the Southern Hemisphere. Benjamin Apthorp Gould attended Harvard University and graduated in 1844. He continued his education in Germany, more specifically in Göttingen. Gould studied mathematics…
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Jean Bailly and the Orbit of Halley’s Comet

Jean Bailly and the Orbit of Halley’s Comet

On September 15, 1736, French astronomer, mathematician, freemason, and political leader of the early part of the French Revolution Jean Sylvain Bailly was born. Bailly computed an orbit for Halley’s Comet (1759) and studied the four satellites of Jupiter then known. He was the first Mayor of Paris and presided over the Tennis Court Oath. Jean Sylvain Bailly came from a family of artists. His father was an artist and supervisor of the…
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