Thursday 10 September 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Sept 10th 1784 A Night to remember in York

A night to remember

September 10th 1784, was a night to remember in York. The astronomers John Goodricke a deaf youth and the older but flamboyant Edward Pigott were observing the night sky. They would on that night discover not one but two variable stars. They would change the course of history in the study of variable stars.

John Goodricke

Edward Pigott

On this night Goodricke discovered the variability of Beta Lyrae which today we know is an eclipsing variable. Pigott discovered Eta Aquilae, which is a Cepheid type variable. Delta Cephei would later be discovered by Goodricke.

Beta Lyrae (beta looks like the letter B)

Eta Aquilae (eta looks like the letter n)

 They had already explained what cause the light variations of the star Algol also known as ‘the winking demon’. They believed that there were two objects orbiting each other causing the light of the star to change. Some of their ideas were two hundred years ahead of their time. They would both go on to discover other variable stars; Pigott had also discovered a comet from York.

 Until that night only four variable stars were known to astronomers.  Today astronomers know of thousands of variable stars.

They worked together in York for only four years; Goodricke would die before his 22nd birthday. Together they would become “The Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy”

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