Thursday 30 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Concorde and the Sun

June 30th 1973 Concorde chases eclipse of the Sun.

Concorde 001 took astronomers to watch an eclipse of the Sun, normally astronomers have only a few minutes to watch an eclipse of the Sun the longest possible is just over 7 minutes, but Concorde travelling at a supersonic speed of around twice the speed of sound about 1400 mph allowed astronomers to study the eclipse for around 70 minutes while flying over central Africa.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Eclipse of the Sun June 29th 1927

Solar Eclipse June 29th 1927

The great northern eclipse of the Sun, totality was around and lasted a mere 23 seconds, the eclipse was visible from north Wales across, Lancashire, Yorkshire and to the Hartlepool’s.

 The weather was cloudy in many areas but was seen in Lancashire and parts Yorkshire. The astronomer royal was at Giggleswick School where the eclipse was seen.

At Southport in Lancashire aircraft were used to go above the clouds and photograph an eclipse seen over Britain. Around 3 million people traveled to the north of England to see the eclipse, around ¼ million were on the beaches at Southport.

Many of the people who traveled to see the eclipse went by train or in charabancs or open top bus.  Among the people who did see the eclipse was Virginia Wolf.

Monday 27 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Edward Piggot 1753-1825

Edward Piggot 1753-1825

Born in Whitton in west London in 1753, with his father Nathaniel Piggot he led a vagrant type life always travelling around, in England and Europe in particular France. In Caen between 1763 and 1769 they observed Partial eclipse of the Sun in 1765 and Transit of Venus in 1769.

 Due to various connections the Pigott`s were asked by Prime Minster Prince Staremberg to complete a cartographic survey of the principal towns in the Austrian Netherlands. Using a clock, and a 6 ft Dolland telescope. They measured the locations of Namur, Luxembourg, Antwerp, Ostend, Tournay, Brussels and Louvain in 1772/3.

In 1777 they moved back to England to Gloucestershire then to Frampton House in Glamorganshire. Ships sailing up the river Severn often grounded, the charts showed the river to be 20 miles between Llantwit Major and Watchet in Somerset. The Piggots measured the distance and found it to be only 13 miles wide.

At this time they had between them the 6 ft Dolland, a 2.5 inch achromatic by Watkins, a 5 inch  reflector by Heath and Wing  they also had clocks, two mural quadrants in an observatory on two levels.

On March 23, 1779, from Frampton House in Glamorganshire Edward Piggot discovered a "nebula" in Coma Berenices, which later became known as M64 (Pigott 1781). Today M64 is known as the Black Eye Galaxy. This discovery occurred just 12 days before that by Bode and roughly a year before Messier's independent rediscovery of this object.

In 1781 they moved to York where they rebuilt their observatory which was considered one of the best in the country in private hands. Edward Pigott  would work with John Goodricke the deaf astronomer where they would become the ‘Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy’.

They Piggots moved to York because in 1773 Lord Fairfax of Gilling Castle had died leaving an unmarried daughter Lady Anne Fairfax as his heir to the estate. The Piggots were distantly related to the Fairfax’s and Nathaniel Piggot saw this as his chance to move in and take over the estate.
He persuaded Lady Anne Fairfax to let him run the estate; she was duped into signing the estate to him. She only had one ally her chaplain John Bolton, anyone who opposed Nathaniel Piggot was dealt with harshly. The case would eventually go to court and there would be a private act of Parliament which in 1802 allowed for Nathaniel Piggots second son Charles Gregory to inherit everything rather the Edward.

Edward Piggot was completely different from his father and was what we would describe today as being very easy going and laid back.

Nov 19th 1783 Edward Pigott discovered a comet in Cetus. D/1783 W1 first Englishman to have discovered a comet, and then have it named after him.  It was around magnitude 6 and has an orbital period of 5.89 years. The comet was then lost. On the night of January 5, 2003, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program located in New Mexico (USA) found an asteroid type  object on three images obtained using their 1.0-m telescope. It was then lost again. In 2010 the comet was re discovered again and is now known as 226P/Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski.

Piggots and Goodrickes knowledge of the sky was about to provide a rich harvest. The night of September 10th 1784 was about to become a night to remember. Goodricke discovered Beta Lyra an ellipsoidal variable while Piggot discovered Eta Aquila a Cepheid variable.

After Goodrickes death in 1786 Piggot moved to the city of Bath where in 1795 he discovered the variable stars R Scutum and R Corona Borealis the famous star that often disappears from view for months at a time.

In 1802 while visiting friends in France during a period of peace between the two countries he was detained when war broke out again and placed under house arrest. However after the French government was petitioned by French and British astronomers he was released and given safe passage to Calais where he returned to England.

His last astronomical observations were of the great comet of 1811.

Edward Piggot died on June 27, 1825.

Friday 24 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Fred Hoyle

Sir Fred Hoyle FRS 1915 – 2001

Fred Hoyle was born near Bingley in Gilstead, West Riding of Yorkshire, on June 24th 1915, he was an astronomer and cosmologist. He was also a typical Yorkshire man. He believed in the steady state universe.

In the 1950's while involved in a radio programme with other scientists who disagreed with his ideas he said that people who believed that the universe began with an explosion were wrong and should forget about their BIG BANG IDEA.  

He had unwittingly given a name that we still use today to explain when the universe began.

Fred Hoyle died on August 20th 2001.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Charon


On June 22nd 1978 James Christie at the US Naval Observatory discovered a moon for the then plant Pluto. Charon was discovered by Christie on photographs that other astronomers had regarded as being faulty.

Charon is so large that at the time Pluto and Charon were considered a double planet system. We know now that Charon is the largest of Pluto's 5 moon's.

The bulge on the left was thought to be a fault on the picture, Christie realized it was a moon. 

Pluto has since the discovery of Charon been re classified as a dwarf planet.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Max Wolf

Max Wolf 1863-1932

Max Wolf was born in Heidelberg, Germany on June 21 1863 and would become a pioneer in astrophotography.

In 1910 Wolf proposed to the Carl Zeiss optics firm the creation of a new instrument, now known as the planetarium.

Wolf co-discovered several comets and also co-discovered four supernovae, working with E E Barneard,  Max Wolf proved that dark nebulae of the sky that astronomers believed to be ‘holes in the sky’ were huge clouds of fine opaque dust.

He discovered 248 asteroids discovered the first was 323 Brucia on December 22 1891 the last being  5926 schonfeld.

Wolf applied astrophotography to the observation of stars. In 1919 Wolf published a catalogue of the locations of over 1500 nearby stars.  These stars are still commonly identified by his name and catalogue number. Among the stars he discovered is Wolf 359, a dim red dwarf that was later found to be one of the nearest stars to our solar system.  This catalogue is still used by astronomers for astronomical research to this day. 

Max Wolf died on October 3rd 1932.

Monday 20 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Eclipse of the Sun 1955

Eclipse of the Sun June 20 1955

The eclipse of the Sun on June 20th 1955 which was visible over southern India and the Philippines was the longest of the 20th century lasting for 7 minutes and 8 seconds.

The longest a solar eclipse can last is 7 minutes and 32 seconds. The 1955 eclipse was the longest since the 11th century and will not be bettered until the 22nd century.

Friday 17 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook The Black Hour Eclipse

Solar Eclipse June 17th 1433 The Black Hour Eclipse 

Another eclipse seen from Scotland, this one was on June 17th 1433, the eclipse was also seen in north east England and into parts of Yorkshire. Over Scotland this was another long eclipse lasting 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

One of the most celebrated eclipses in the Middle Ages was called the "Black Hour". It happened in Scotland and it has been said that darkness came about 3 pm.

The eclipse was also visible from north east; in Sunderland it would have been visible for 3 minutes and 14 seconds and even in Scarborough in Yorkshire totality lasted for 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

Thursday 16 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Eclipse of the Sun 885 AD

Solar Eclipse 885 AD

An eclipse of the Sun was seen over Scotland on June 16th 885 which was St Cyric’s day. Lasting nearly 5 minutes it is one of the longest total eclipses visible over the UK.

 Nearly all of Scotland would have seen totality. It is reported that stars were seen in the heavens.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Gart Westerhout

Gart Westerhout 1927 – 2012

Gart Westerhout was a Dutch-American astronomer. He was born in The Hague on June 15th 1927. Well before completing his university studies at Leiden, he had already become well-established internationally as a radio astronomer in the Netherlands, specializing in studies of radio sources and the Milky Way Galaxy.

He immigrated to the United States and  became a naturalized citizen, in 1962 he became the first Director of a fledgling Astronomy Program at the University of Maryland.  From 1977-1993 he was Scientific Director at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

Gart Westerhout died on October 14th 2012

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook George Bishop and the Regent Park Observatory

George Bishop (1785- 1861)

George Bishop died on June 14th 1861 he had been  born on August 21st 1785 in Leicester where he made his fortune as a wine merchant, but his great passion in life was astronomy.  In 1836 in the grounds of his home in South Villa in Regent`s Park, London he built an astronomical observatory.

The observatory was equipped with a 7 inch Dollond refractor. The Rev William Rutter Dawes used the telescope from 1839-1844 until poor health forced him to leave. In October 1844 John Russell Hind became the observatory`s astronomer where he made many discoveries. Between 1847 and 1854 Hind discovered 10 asteroids from the observatory, they were, 7 Iris, 8 Flora, 12 Victoria, 14 Irene, 18 Melpomene, 19 Fortuna, 22 calliope, 23 Thalia, 27 Eutepe and 30 Urania.  Another asteroid 29 Amphitrite was discovered in 1854 by Albert Marth, Hind`s young assistant.

After the death of George Bishop in 1861, the observatory dome and instruments were moved to Twickenham in west London to avoid the more polluted skies of the capital.
The observatory operated until 1877 when the instruments and library were donated to Royal Observatory at Naples.

The original Regent`s Park observatory no longer exists

Monday 13 June 2016

Astrognome Srapbook Alessandro Piccolomini 1508-1578

Alessandro Piccolomini 1508-1578

He was born in Sienna on June 13th 1508 , he was titular Archbishop of Padua and made observations with an instrument like a quadrant with a radius of at least 4 feet.

Among his many books was DE LE STELLE FISSE LIBRO UNO in 1540 containing woodcut star maps of Ptolemy’s constellations , without the mythological fugures, and the Sun being indicated by letters of the Roman alphabet. 

In 1578 he advocated the reform of the calendar, this would of course be done by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Piccolomini  died in Sienna in 1578.

Friday 10 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Comet Halley 451 AD

Comet Halley 451 AD

Comet Halley was first seen by to Chinese astronomers on June 10th 451 in Perseus,it then moved through Leo passed Hercules and swept through Virgo and disappeared near Crater and Corvus. It was last seen on August 16th.  In Europe it was between June 10th and August 1st.

Comets were often seen as profits of doom, and this appearance of Halley's comet was only 2 years before the death of Attila the Hun who had wrought such destruction to the Roman empire.

Thursday 9 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook WF Denning

William Frederick Denning 1848 - 1931

W F Denning died in Bristol on 9th June 1931 he was 83. He had an early interest in astronomy and when he was 16 he acquired a 4 ½ inch refractor, later he would obtain a 10 inch reflector that he did much of his work with. He was not professionally trained he worked as an accountant. He was what today would be referred to as an amateur astronomer.

He observed the Andromedid meteor shower of 1872; this was the remains of comet Biela which had broken up. He became a prolific meteor observer undertaking work on the positions of meteor radiants. He also discovered 4 comets in 1881, 1890, 1892.and 1894. He was also one of the first observers of the bright nova in Aquila in 1918 and on August 20th 1920 he discovered Nova Cygni.  His main interest in planets was with Jupiter and also to a lesser extent Mars. 

Denning was a very modest person who enjoyed cricket, he was invited by W G Grace to play for Gloucestershire but he declined the invitation.  

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook Nova Aquila 1918

Nova Aquila 1918

A brilliant nova was recorded on June 8 1918 at a time when armies on the western front were engaged in a massive battle. 

When first seen it was of the 1st magnitude. Among the many early observers to see the Nova was E Barnard who was in the state of Wyoming to watch an eclipse of the Sun which had occurred a few hours earlier! Another early discoverer was a young 17 year old Leslie Peltier who would go on to become America’s champion comet hunter and variable star observer.

By the following day June 9th it reached a magnitude of -1.4 and was rivalling Sirius the Dog Star as the brightest star in the sky. It then slowly faded an would still just about be visible to the naked eye in March 1919.

A nova is a binary system where one star is more hotter and more massive than the other and pulls gas way from the larger although less massive star, some of this gas will fall on the surface of the of the hotter star this star then throws of a shell of gas representing about 0.1% of its mass into space. We see this gas as the star gets brighter.

 The term Nova is Latin for ‘New’ several hundred years ago astronomers thought that the nova they were seeing were stars being born.