Monday 29 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Christopher Columbus and the Eclipse of the Moon

Columbus and the Lunar Eclipse

Christopher Columbus on another journey to the new land of Jamaica and found himself surrounded by hostile Indians in February 1504; he was short of supplies and wanted to repair his ships to return home.

He knew that on February 29th 1504 there would be an eclipse of the Moon, three days beforehand he told the Indian chiefs that unless he was given supplies something very strange would happen to the Moon. 

On the evening of the February 29th Columbus waited for the Moon to appear in the sky and sure enough the eclipse started shortly afterwards. The Moon started turning a coppery red colour as it entered the shadow of the Earth. The Indians were terrified that someone who knew  that something so terrible could happen to the Moon that he must be a ‘god’.

They pleaded with him to return the Moon he told them all in good time and waited for the eclipse to end. Naturally he was given all the supplies he wanted and safely returned home.

It’s amazing how astronomical knowledge can come in very useful in the strangest of situations!  

Friday 26 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook H D Taylor 1862-1943

H D Taylor 1862-1943

Harold Dennis Taylor usually known as H D Taylor was born in Huddersfield and went on to work with the optical manufacturers Cooke and Sons in York where he became manager of the optics workshop.

In 1891 he published The Adjustment and Testing of Telescope Objectives, but his most influential work was the design of the Cooke portrait Lens which virtually removed the problems of colour distortion or chromatic aberration around the edge of the lens.

HD Taylor died on February 26th 1943.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Black Saturday Eclipse

Black Saturday Eclipse

On February 25th 1598 an eclipse of the Sun was visible over the UK. This was an unusual south-north eclipse, starting in Cornwall passing through Wales and ending in Aberdeen. The eclipse lasted for 1 minute and 33 seconds.

In Scotland the sky went so dark that according to reports people got lost while out in the snow and perished. This could be a reason why this eclipse is referred to in Scotland as the ‘Black Saturday Eclipse’

‘The date on the map is different to the text because the NASA eclipse site does not make an allowance for the change of calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian.

As a partial eclipse it was observed by Tycho Brahe in Holstein, Christen Hansen in Jutland, and by Longomontanus from Rostok.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Attila the Hun and the Solar Eclipse

Attila the Hun and Solar Eclipse

On February 24th 453 an annular eclipse was visible over Italy late in the afternoon. It occurred at the time that Attila the Hun was attacking the Rome.

It was said that there was much shedding of innocent blood and the eclipse made the Sun look hideous and that scarcely a third of it was visible.

Monday 22 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Pierre Janssen 1824-1907

Pierre Janssen 1824-1907
The French astronomer Pierre Janssen was born on February 22nd 1824, he was a solar astronomer who co discovered with Norman Lockyer the lines of Helium in the Sun, which at that time were yet to be discovered on Earth.

He was nothing if not adventurous and attempted to observe the solar eclipse of 22nd December 1870. He was trapped in Paris at the time during the Franco Prussian war.  He escaped in a balloon to watch the eclipse but sadly the weather was poor.

He died in France on December 23rd 1907.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Comet of 1402

Comet of 1402
On February 20th 1402 a comet appeared to the east of Pisces/Andromeda, the report says its rays pointing eastwards. On February 22nd its rays were radiating in all directions.

The comet was visible for 2 months and according to observers in Germany, Italy and  Russian. It was visible in daylight for 8 days in March 1402.

Friday 19 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Henry Savile 1549-1622

Henry Savile 1549-1622

Henry Savile was born at Bradley in Yorkshire on November 30th 1549. He was an English scholar and patron of learning. In 1619 he founded the post of the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Oxford. He appointed John Bainbridge as the first professor in 1620.

Savile died at Eton on February 19th 1622.

Friday 12 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Nat Turner and the Annular Eclipse

Nat Turner

The black slave preacher Nat Turner witnessed an annular eclipse of the Sun on February 12th 1831.

It was seen as a vision from God of a “black angel” overtaking a “white angel”. Turner saw another astronomical spectacle a naked eye sunspot on August 12th 1831. This all fuelled the possibility of a black slave rebellion. 

The rebellion itself began on August 21st 1831 but was quickly crushed and Turner was hanged on November 11th 1831.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Astrognome Astronomy Earthshine


Earthshine is one of the loveliest sights in the sky, and you don’t need any optical equipment to see it.

This is the reflected light from the Earth subtly illuminating part of the surface of the Moon. It can sometimes be described as making the Moon look rather ghostly.

This is best seen when the Moon is around 5 or 6 days old and this month the best time to see Earthshine will be around the 10th or 11th  February. 

The Moon is seen as a thin crescent.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Astrognome Astronomy Hitchhikers Guide to the Cosmos

If you would like to look at short 2 minutes programmes on the planets with the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Cosmos please go to

Monday 8 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Minor Planet Kuriwa

Minor planet Kuroiwa

Discovered on February 8th 1994 by K. Endate and K. Watananbe at Kitami observatory in Japan, minor Planet 7436 Kuroiwa 1994 CB2 was named in honour of Goro Kuroiwa 1912-1990, a Japanese astronomer and observer of variable stars.

He independently discovered nova CP Lacerta in June 1936 it reached a maximum brightness of 2.1. While serving with the Japanese army in 1942 he independently discovered Nova Puppis 1942, this nova reached a magnitude of -0.2 it is now designated CP Lacerta.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Sir William Huggins 1824-1910

Sir William Huggins
A pioneer of astrophysics William Huggins was born on February 7th 1824 in Middlesex, England.

 When he was 18 he brought a telescope and was clearly interested in astronomy however his parents persuaded him to run their draper business in the City of London.  This he did from 1842-1854 when he sold the business and moved to Tulse Hill on the outskirts of London and built an observatory with an 8 inch refractor.

He married Margaret Lindsay, daughter of John Murray of Dublin, who also had an interest in astronomy and scientific research. She encouraged her husband's photography and helped to put their research on a systematic footing.

He would become a pioneer of spectroscopy and designed a spectroscope and started observing spectra of the Sun, Moon, planets and bright stars.

On 29 August 1864, Huggins was the first to take the spectrum of a planetary nebula, NGC 6543. He was also the first to distinguish between nebulae and galaxies by showing that some (like the Orion Nebula) had pure emission spectra characteristic of gas, while others like the Andromeda Galaxy had the spectral characteristics of stars.

Huggins was also the first to adopt dry plate photography in imaging astronomical objects. Dry Plate is also known as gelatin process, is an improved type of photographic plate.

Huggins died on 12th May 1910.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Astrognome Astronomy Thomas Anderson 1853-1932

Thomas Anderson

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 6th 1853, Thomas Anderson would discover two important novae, Nova Aurigae 1892 which reached a magnitude of 3.8 and Nova Persei 1901 which reached magnitude 0.2.

 It has since been classified as GK Persei as it appears to have several outbursts since its discovery. However since 1990 these outbursts have become a little more regular typically brightening by about 2 magnitudes with the outbursts lasting a couple of 

Thus, GK Persei seems to have changed from a classical nova to something resembling a typical dwarf nova-type cataclysmic variable star.

Anderson produced his own star charts and discovered over 50 new variable stars.

 He died on the 31st March 1932.