Thursday 19 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook asteroid Irene


On May 19th 1851 John Russell hind discovered the asteroid 14 Irene is a large main-belt asteroid, discovered by John Russell Hind on May 19, 1851.  The 14 refers to the 14th asteroid to be discovered. Irene was one of the Horae, a daughter of Zeus and Themis. 

It was Sir John Herschel son of Sir William Herschel who discovered the planet Uranus that suggested the name Irene. It is currently in Taurus.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Luna Eclipse 1258

Luna Eclipse 1258

On May 18th 1258 an eclipse of the moon was seen, it was recorded in the chronicles Florence of Worcester and was written by John of Worcester the second. 

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook First Comet Discovered by Photography during an Eclipse

First Comet Discovered by Photography during an Eclipse

The first comet discovered on a photographic plate was made on May 17th 1882 by Sir Arthur Schuster while observing from an eclipse of the Sun from Egypt.

Friday 13 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Tebbut's Comet

Tebbut’s Comet

On 13th May 1861 a young farmer at Windsor, a little town near Sydney, saw a fuzzy star. On checking his celestial charts he saw that there was no nebula listed for that position. Still, he could not be sure that it was a comet until he saw it move against the background stars. It took until the 21st  May till he could detect sufficient movement to be almost certain. 

He then sent off a letter to the Rev. William Scott, the Government Astronomer at Sydney Observatory, as well as a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald. This letter was published in the paper on 25 May 1861, the young farmer’s 27th birthday.

This would become known as the great comet of 1861 and is considered one of the 8 greatest comets of the 19th century.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook The Blaze Star, T Corona Borealis

T Corona Borealis

The famous ‘Blaze Star’ T Corona Borealis is the prototype of the recurrent Nova class of variable stars. Recurrent novae are stars that are seen to increase massively more than once. 

T CrB t reached a maximum brightness of magnitude 2.0 on May 12th 1866. This was the first time it had been observed. It brightened up again in 1946.

Although only a few recurrent novae are known but because of the length of time between outbursts there may be many more recurrent novae waiting to be discovered. 

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Walter S Adams

Walter S Adams

Walter Adams died on May 11th 1956, born in Syria on December 20th 1876, Adams was the son of American missionaries. After receiving his bachelor's degree at Dartmouth College, he accompanied his astronomy professor, Edwin B. Frost, to Yerkes Observatory. After two years there he was summoned by his Yerkes director, George Ellery Hale, to help establish the Mt. Wilson Solar 

His spectroscopic studies of the sun, done with Hale and others, led to the discovery that the sunspots are regions of lower temperatures and stronger magnetic fields than their surroundings.

He shared with Theodore Dunham, Jr. in the discoveries of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus. Adams observing Sirius (the dog star) realised that the companion star Sirius B (the pup) as the first white dwarf star known, and his measurement of its gravitational redshift was taken as confirming evidence for the general theory of relativity

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia Helena Payne was born May 10, 1900, in Wendover, England. She became an authority on variable stars and the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. She was one of the first women to advance to the rank of professor at Harvard University and the first woman to head a department there.
She entered Cambridge University in 1919. As a woman in the field of astronomy, Payne met with many obstacles. In 1934, the American astronomer Henry Norris Russell referred to Payne when he wrote that the best candidate in America to be his successor at Princeton University “alas, is a woman!”

In 1934, Payne married Russian-born Harvard astronomer and astrophysicist Sergei Gaposchkin. They worked together on many variable star projects.

Finally, in 1956, after a 31-year wait, Payne-Gaposchkin received the title of tenured professor of astronomy at Harvard, a position she held until 1966. She was the first woman to become a fully tenured professor at Harvard. At the same time, she became the first woman department chair, heading Harvard's Department of Astronomy from 1956 to 1960. Her own struggles as a woman in a field dominated by men helped Payne-Gaposchkin become a strong supporter of young women students.

From 1966 to 1979, Payne-Gaposchkin remained an emeritus professor of Harvard, and from 1967 to 1979 she was a staff member of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin died on Dec. 7, 1979.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Eclipse of the Sun 840 AD

Solar Eclipse 840 AD

On May 5th 840 Ad a total eclipse of the Sun was seen from Europe, the stars could be seen shinning,  it took place in the middle of the day. 

The emperor of the west, Louis of Bavaria was so overwhelmed by what he saw that he promptly died of fright. 

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Magellan


On May 4th 1989 the Magellan space mission to Venus was launched, it was an unmanned space probe with a mission to radar map the surface of Venus. The thick atmosphere means it is impossible to see the surface of the planet.

Magellan reached Venus on August 10th 1990,  during the next 4 years the probe radar mapped the Venus, its mission finished on October 13th 1994 when it entered the atmosphere of Venus and burnt up. 

Radar image of Venus

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook J S Hey

J S Hey

James Stanley Hey FRS was born in Nelson Lancashire on May 3rd 1909 and was an English physicist and radio astronomer. Hey studied physics at the University of Manchester, in 1942 he joined the Army Operational Research Group (AORG).

 His task was to work on radar anti-jamming methods. The Germans were jamming allied radar as were the allies jamming German radar. When in early 1942 the two German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau escaped from Brest harbour in France through the English Channel to Germany, there was uproar in Britain, people assumed that allied radar had been jammed.

The radar was jammed but not by the Germans but by the Sun, there were very active sun spots in early 1942 producing solar flares. It was Hey who realised that sunspots produced the solar flares and also the bursts of radio waves that affected the radar. Later in 1945 Hey used radar to track incoming V2 missiles from Germany. None of his work could be published until after the war.

In 1946 Hey discovered radio waves coming from the constellation of Cygnus the swan. At first these sources were called radio stars, but later found to be supernova remnants, normal galaxies and new types of galaxy located near, or beyond, the limits of optical telescopes, Hey's discovery initiated an era of research that transformed observational astronomy.

Supernova Cassiopeia A

Sadly much of his pioneering work was overlooked; Hey became Head of the AORG in 1949. He then worked as a researcher at the Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, where he also continued his radio astronomical observations. From 1966 until his retirement in 1969 he was head of the research department. J.S Hey died on 27th February 2000.

Astrognome Scrapbook T Pyxdis

T. Pyxdis

T Pyxdis is a recurrent nova that has erupted in brightness more times than any other known nova. Normally seen at around magnitude 14, on May 2nd 1902 its ‘first’ outburst was captured on photographic plates taken at Harvard. It reached maximum brightness of mag 7.3. Research showed that in fact it was captured on photographic plates in 1890.

T Pyx has gone nova in 1890, 1902, 1920, 1944, and 1966. It is now long overdue for another increase in brightness and certainly a star worth keeping an eye on. The 1920 event appears to be the brightest with that star reaching magnitude 6.4.

Novae are binary systems with two stars orbiting each other, one star which will be cooler than the other has gas pulled off the other hotter star and forms a disc around it, when too much gas is orbiting the second star it this cooler gas falls onto the hotter star and in simple terms the star will sizzle and throw about 0.1% of its mass into space abd cause the star to become brighter.