Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage

Online ISSN: 1440-2807
Publications
Chapter
Given uncertainty surrounding the true value of the astronomical unit following the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus the next transit, in 1874, offered hope for a substantial refinement in the value of this fundamental yardstick of Solar System astronomy. Part of the reason for this successful anticipated outcome was that both photography and spectroscopy would be applied to a transit of Venus for the first time. Consequently expectations were high, and this unusual event enjoyed a high public profile, thanks to frequent articles published in newspapers and in magazines. Because of the importance of this transit, many nations dispersed expeditions to Asia, the Pacific and the Australia–New Zealand region where the entire event could be seen. The USA sent out eight transit parties to this part of the world, and their activities and results, along with those of other nations’ transit parties, were widely reported back home. In this paper we focus on the US expeditions, and the ways in which their activities were reported on back in the USA through the pages of the New York Times.
 
a) (upper): A snapshot of the extent and position of the auroral zone in the northern hemisphere at 23:06 UT on 2 December 2012. b) (lower): A snapshot of the southern auroral zone at 05:29 UT on 29 November 2012. Both were relatively quiet days in terms of magnetic disturbance. Under more disturbed conditions the auroral zones are thicker and displaced equator-ward. The plots are derived from measurements obtained from the NOAA POES satellite showing the power flux of auroral activity (0 to 10 ergs cm-2 sec-1 ). Plots taken from the POES Auroral Activity page on the National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Centre, NOAA. URL: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ pmap/
An Aurorae Australis, as seen from Victoria, Australia, on the night of 22 January, 2012 (courtesy: Alex Cherney).
Places in Australia from which Aboriginal traditions describing aurorae were found. Accounts of aurorae are found in all States and Territories, although they are restricted to the southern half of the continent, consistent with the rarity of these events at lower latitudes.
The number of sunspots observed between 1750 and 2010. After Hathaway (2010: Figure 2). The vertical lines show the years when historic aurorae were described in Aboriginal culture from Section 6.
A computer simulation of one of the shapes caused by the proposed high-intensity auroral display (top left), an interpretation of what it may have looked like (top middle), and various rock art motifs that Peratt and his colleagues believe may represent this phenomenon (top right, bottom). Similar motifs are found in Australia (e.g. McCarthy 1976), although any connection to the proposed auroral display is speculative (after Peratt, 2003). 
Article
Transient celestial phenomena feature prominently in the astronomical knowledge and traditions of Aboriginal Australians. In this paper, I collect accounts of the Aurora Australis from the literature regarding Aboriginal culture. Using previous studies of meteors, eclipses, and comets in Aboriginal traditions, I anticipate that the physical properties of aurora, such as their generally red colour as seen from southern Australia, will be associated with fire, death, blood, and evil spirits. The survey reveals this to be the case and also explores historical auroral events in Aboriginal cultures, aurorae in rock art, and briefly compares Aboriginal auroral traditions with other global indigenous groups, including the Maori of New Zealand.
 
The Great Comet of 1843 (C/1843 D1) as seen from Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land). Painting by Mary Morton Allport (1806-1895). Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License.
A drawing of Comet Tebbutt (C/1861 N1) made on 30 June 1861, drawn with respect to a Northern Hemisphere observer. The image would appear upside-down to observers in the Southern Hemisphere. Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License.
Drawing of Comet Skjellerup-Maristany by R.A. McIntosh, 5 December 1927. 
The Bulgandry petroglyph near Woy-Woy, NSW. Left - Image © Ray Norris (2007). Right Drawing by W.D. Campbell (1893). 
Article
We present 25 accounts of comets from 40 Australian Aboriginal communities, citing both supernatural perceptions of comets and historical accounts of bright comets. Historical and ethnographic descriptions include the Great Comets of 1843, 1861, 1901, 1910, and 1927. We describe the perceptions of comets in Aboriginal societies and show that they are typically associated with fear, death, omens, malevolent spirits, and evil magic, consistent with many cultures around the world. We also provide a list of words for comets in 16 different Aboriginal languages. Comment: Accepted in the "Journal for Astronomical History & Heritage", 17 Pages, 6 Figures, 1 Table
 
The tidal range (difference between high and low tide) over the course of May 2011 in Gove Harbour, eastern Arnhem Land, showing the data range that corresponds to particular lunar phases (the day of and two days following). Data taken from Northern Territory Transport Group (2011). 
The path of a total solar eclipse that occurred on 12 March 1793 as calculated by Government Astronomer Mr. G.F. Dodwell that Norman Tindale believed was the source of an Aboriginal story about the sun becoming dark (Dodwell’s calculation was off by a day and the total eclipse did not cover Parachilna). Image taken from Tindale (1937:152). 
Article
We explore 50 Australian Aboriginal accounts of lunar and solar eclipses to determine how Aboriginal groups understood this phenomenon. We summarise the literature on Aboriginal references to eclipses, showing that many Aboriginal groups viewed eclipses negatively, frequently associating them with bad omens, evil magic, disease, blood and death. In many communities, Elders or medicine men were believed to have the ability to control or avert eclipses by magical means, solidifying their role as provider and protector within the community. We also show that many Aboriginal groups understood the motions of the sun-earth-moon system, the connection between the lunar phases and tides, and acknowledged that solar eclipses were caused by the moon blocking the sun.
 
Article
We present evidence that the Boorong Aboriginal people of northwestern Victoria observed the Great Eruption of Eta (η) Carinae in the nineteenth century and incorporated the event into their oral traditions. We identify this star, as well as others not specifically identified by name, using descriptive material presented in the 1858 paper by William Edward Stanbridge in conjunction with early southern star catalogues. This identification of a transient astronomical event supports the assertion that Aboriginal oral traditions are dynamic and evolving, and not static. This is the only definitive indigenous record of {\eta} Carinae's outburst identified in the literature to date. Comment: Accepted in the Journal for Astronomical History & Heritage, Volume 13, Issue 3 (November, 2010). 9 Figures, 4 Tables
 
Article
We explore Aboriginal oral traditions that relate to Australian meteorite craters. Using the literature, first-hand ethnographic records, and fieldtrip data, we identify oral traditions and artworks associated with four impact sites: Gosses Bluff, Henbury, Liverpool, and Wolfe Creek. Oral traditions describe impact origins for Gosses Bluff, Henbury, and Wolfe Creek craters and non-impact origins of Liverpool crater, with Wolfe Creek and Henbury having both impact and non-impact origins in oral tradition. Three impact sites that are believed to have formed during human habitation of Australia - Dalgaranga, Veevers, and Boxhole - do not have associated oral traditions that are reported in the literature.
 
Daisy Bates in Adelaide circa 1936 (aged 76). Image credit: State Library of South Australia. 
Locations where Bates lived and worked alongside the Aboriginal peoples, including Eucla, Yalata, and finally Ooldea. Also indicated are the locations of Wandanya (Waldana Well), the area from which “The Orion Story” originated according to Bates, and Oodnadatta, where anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt witnessed the Minari and Baba Inma in 1944. Image credit: user Astrokey44 (Wikimedia Commons). 
According to Bates’ story, the Seven Yugarilya Sisters of the Pleiades were all Mingarri (Thorny Devil, or lizard) totem. The Thorny Devil ( Moloch horridus ) is found throughout the central desert regions of Australia and feeds exclusively on ants ( Minga ). The “hump” on the back of its neck is the “false-head”, used as a defense mechanism. Image credit: user KeresH (Wikimedia Commons). 
Bates' original attribution of astronomical characters to principle stars in the Aboriginal story of Nyeeruna and Kambugudha, listing their Aboriginal and Western name, Bayer designation, spectral type, visual magnitude (mv), variability (Yes or No), their magnitude range (Δmv). Of the stars described in this oral tradition, only the variability of Betelgeuse would be noticeable to the naked eye.
Same as Table 2, but with re-attribution of Kara the Redback spider with Arcturus, an orange-red giant star, based on Bates' unpublished notes contained in Folio 26/78. The same Folio also gives a possible name to the Mother Dingo. Procyon's Aboriginal name and role still remains unclear.
Article
Whilst camped at Ooldea, South Australia, between 1919 and 1935, the amateur anthropologist Daisy Bates CBE (1859-1951) recorded the daily lives, lore, and oral traditions of the Aboriginal people of the Great Victoria Desert region surrounding Ooldea. Among her archived notes are stories regarding the Aboriginal astronomical traditions of this region. One story in particular, involving the stars making up the modern western constellations of Orion and Taurus, and thus referred to here as "The Orion Story", stands out for its level of detail and possible references to transient astronomical phenomena. Here, we critically analyse several important elements of "The Orion Story", including its relationship to an important secret-sacred male initiation rite. This paper is the first in a series attempting to reconstruct a more complete picture of the sky knowledge and star lore of the Aboriginal people of the Great Victoria Desert.
 
Article
The stone alignment 'Nilurallu' at Murardoddi is a megalithic monument containing standing stones of 12 to 16 feet high that are arranged somewhat in a squarish pattern. This is one of the stone alignments listed by Allchin (1956) as a non-sepulchal array that might have some astronomical connotations. This impressive stone alignment seems to be similar to that at Vibhuthihalli, that was studied earlier, but constructed with much larger stones. The observations conducted by us show that the rows of stones are aligned to the directions of sunrise (and sunset) on calendrically-important events, like equinoxes and solstices. In contrast to Vibhuthihalli, the shadows of stones provide a means of measuring shorter intervals of time. Key words: Observational astronomy, megalithic astronomy, stone alignments, equinoxes, solstices, sunrises
 
Article
William Wilson Morgan was one of the great astronomers of the twentieth century. He considered himself a morphologist, and was preoccupied throughout his career with matters of classification. Though his early life was difficult, and his pursuit of astronomy as a career was opposed by his father, he took a position at Yerkes Observatory in 1926 and remained there for the rest of his working life. Thematically, his work was also a unified whole. Beginning with spectroscopic studies under Otto Struve at Yerkes Observatory, by the late 1930s he concentrated particularly on the young O and B stars. His work on stellar classification led to the Morgan-Keenan- Kellman [MKK] system of classification of stars, and later - as he grappled with the question of the intrinsic color and brightness of stars at great distances - to the Johnson-Morgan UBV system for measuring stellar colors. Eventually these concerns with classification and method led to his greatest single achievement - the recognition of the nearby spiral arms of our Galaxy by tracing the OB associations and HII regions that outline them. After years of intensive work on the problem of galactic structure, the discovery came in a blinding flash of Archimedean insight as he walked under the night sky between his office and his house in the autumn of 1951. His optical discovery of the spiral arms preceded the radio-mapping of the spiral arms by more than a year. Morgan suffered a nervous breakdown soon after he announced his discovery, however, and so was prevented from publishing a complete account of his work. As a result of that, and the announcement soon afterward of the first radio maps of the spiral arms, the uniqueness of his achievement was not fully appreciated at the time.
 
Article
The Gond community is considered to be one of the most ancient tribes of India with a continuing history of several thousand years. They are also known for their largely isolated history which they have retained through the millennia. Several of their intellectual traditions therefore are a record of parallel aspects of human intellectual growth, and still preserve their original flavour and have not been homogenised by the later traditions of India. In view of this, the Gonds provide a special window to the different currents that constitute contemporary India. In the present study, we summarise their mythology, genetics and script. We then investigate their astronomical traditions and try to understand this community through a survey of 15 Gond villages spread over Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. We show that they have a distinctly different view of the sky from the conventional astronomical ideas encountered elsewhere in India, which is both interesting and informative. We briefly comment on other aspects of their life as culled from our encounters with different members of the Gond community.
 
Article
Astronomy arises very early in a civilization and evolves as the civilization advances. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a vibrant knowledge of astronomy would have been a feature of a civilization the size of the Harappan Civilization. We suggest that structures dedicated to astronomy existed in every major Harappan city. One such city was Dholavira, an important trading port that was located on an island in what is now the Rann of Kutch during the peak of the Harappan Civilization. We have analyzed an unusual structure at Dholavira that includes two circular rooms. Upon assuming strategically-placed holes in their ceilings we examine the internal movement of sunlight within these rooms and suggest that the larger structure of which they formed a part could have functioned as an astronomical observatory.
 
Article
In 1990, the United Nations, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, initiated the organization of a series of annual Workshops on Basic Space Science for the benefit of astronomers and space scientists in Asia and the Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean, Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. This article summarizes accomplishments of these Workshops (1991-1998) and their follow-up projects with a view to enhance the worldwide development of astronomy and space science. The Workshops are being considered unique and a model for such an endeavor.
 
Article
This paper presents an analysis of the star atlas included in the medieval Chinese manuscript (Or.8210/S.3326), discovered in 1907 by the archaeologist Aurel Stein at the Silk Road town of Dunhuang and now held in the British Library. Although partially studied by a few Chinese scholars, it has never been fully displayed and discussed in the Western world. This set of sky maps (12 hour angle maps in quasi-cylindrical projection and a circumpolar map in azimuthal projection), displaying the full sky visible from the Northern hemisphere, is up to now the oldest complete preserved star atlas from any civilisation. It is also the first known pictorial representation of the quasi-totality of the Chinese constellations. This paper describes the history of the physical object - a roll of thin paper drawn with ink. We analyse the stellar content of each map (1339 stars, 257 asterisms) and the texts associated with the maps. We establish the precision with which the maps are drawn (1.5 to 4 degrees for the brightest stars) and examine the type of projections used. We conclude that precise mathematical methods were used to produce the atlas. We also discuss the dating of the manuscript and its possible author and confirm the dates 649-684 (early Tang dynasty) as most probable based on available evidence. This is at variance with a prior estimate around +940. Finally we present a brief comparison with later sky maps, both in China and in Europe. Comment: 19 pages, 5 Tables, 8 Figures
 
Article
The current system of stellar magnitudes first introduced by Hipparchus was strictly defined by Norman Robert Pogson in 1856. He based his system on Ptolemy's star catalogue `Almagest', recorded in about 137 A.D., and defined the magnitude-intensity relationship on a logarithmic scale. Stellar magnitudes observed with the naked eye recorded in seven old star catalogues were analyzed in order to examine the visual magnitude systems. Despite that psychophysists have proposed that human's sensitivities are on a power-law scale, it is shown that the degree of agreement is far better for a logarithmic magnitude than a power-law magnitude. It is also found that light ratios in each star catalogue nearly equal to 2.512, excluding the brightest (1st) and the dimmest (6th and dimmer) stars being unsuitable for the examination. It means that the visual magnitudes in old star catalogues fully agree with Pogson's logarithmic scale.
 
The dedicated regime at Toulouse Observatory in 1957-58
The Toulouse Observatory 80-cm refractor (OMP Archives)
Lacroute's spectrograph (OMP Archives)
The Marseille Observatory 80-cm refractor(OAMP Archives)
Article
We propose a sociohistorical framework for better understanding the evolution in the use of telescopes. We define two regimes of use : a general-purpose (or survey) one, where the telescope governs research, and a dedicated one, in which the telescope is tailored to a specific project which includes a network of other tools. This conceptual framework is first applied to the history of the 80-cm telescope of Toulouse Observatory, which is initially anchored in a general-purpose regime linked to astrometry. After a transition in the 1930s, it is integrated in a dedicated regime centered on astrophysics. This evolution is compared to that of a very similar instrument, the 80-cm telescope of Marseille Observatory, which converts early on to the dedicated regime with the Fabry-Perot interferometer around 1910, and, after a period of idleness, is again used in the survey mode after WWII. To further validate our new concept, we apply it to the telescopes of Washburn Observatory, of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and of Meudon Observatory. The uses of the different telescopes illustrate various combinations of the two regimes, which can be successive, simultaneous or alternating. This conceptual framework is likely to be applicable to other fields of pure and applied science. Comment: 22 pages, pdf only, accepted for publication in Journal for Astronomical History and Heritage
 
Article
Astronomers have long tracked double stars in efforts to find those that are gravitationally-bound binaries and then to determine their orbits. Early catalogues by the Herschels, Struves, and others began with their own discoveries. In 1906 court reporter and amateur astronomer Sherburne Wesley Burnham published a massive double star catalogue containing data from many observers on more than 13,000 systems. Lick Observatory astronomer Robert Grant Aitken produced a much larger catalogue in 1932 and coordinated with Robert Innes of Johannesburg, who catalogued the southern systems. Aitken maintained and expanded Burnham's records of observations on handwritten file cards, and eventually turned them over to the Lick Observatory, where astrometrist Hamilton Jeffers further expanded the collection and put all the observations on punched cards. With the aid of Frances M. "Rete" Greeby he made two catalogues: an Index Catalogue with basic data about each star, and a complete catalogue of observations, with one observation per punched card. He enlisted Willem van den Bos of Johannesburg to add southern stars, and together they published the Index Catalogue of Visual Double Stars, 1961.0. As Jeffers approached retirement he became greatly concerned about the disposition of the catalogues. He wanted to be replaced by another "double star man," but Lick Director Albert E. Whitford had the new 120-inch reflector, the world's second largest telescope, and he wanted to pursue modern astrophysics instead. Jeffers was vociferously opposed to turning over the card files to another institution, and especially against their coming under the control of Kaj Strand of the United States Naval Observatory. The USNO got the files and has maintained the records ever since, first under Charles Worley, and, since 1997, under Brian Mason. Now called the Washington Double Star Catalog, it is online.
 
Article
The Parkes-Tidbinbilla took advantage of a real-time radio-link connecting the Parkes and Tidbinbilla antennas to form the world's longest real-time interferometer. Built on a minuscule budget, it was an extraordinarily successful instrument, generating some 24 journal papers including 3 Nature papers, as well as facilitating the early development of the Australia Telescope Compact Array. Here we describe its origins, construction, successes, and life cycle, and discuss the future use of single-baseline interferometers in the era of SKA and its pathfinders.
 
Article
This is an account of the Millimeter Wave Observatory, a 4.9 meter diameter antenna facility that pioneered continuum observations of planets and interstellar molecular spectroscopy from 1971 to 1988. The circumstances of its founding, development of its instrumentation, and major research contributions are discussed. The MWO role in training of personnel in this new field is illustrated by a listing of student and postdoctoral observers, with titles of PhD theses that included MWO data.
 
Article
The giant radar/radio astronomy dish near Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was conceived by William E. Gordon in early 1958 as a back-scattering radar system to measure the density and temperature of the Earth’s ionosphere up to a few thousand kilometers. Gordon calculated the required size of the antenna by using the Thomson cross-section for scattering by the electrons, and assuming that the elementary scattered waves would be incoherent. During the summer and autumn of 1958 Gordon led a study group that published a design report in December 1958. The report showed that a dish 1000 feet in diameter would be required, and described a limestone sinkhole in Puerto Rico that would make a suitable support for such a dish. Meanwhile, in November 1958, Kenneth L. Bowles per-formed an ionospheric radar experiment that showed that the Gordon calculation for the scattered power was roughly correct, but that the calculated spectral width was too big. The consequence of these results was that a dish substantially smaller than 1000 feet could have satisfied the original goals for the radar. However, from the spring of 1958 the value of 1000 feet had been in the minds of the study team, and a large suite of important experiments that such a dish could do had been identified. These apparently became the raison d’être for the project, and the possibility of shrinking the dish to accomplish only the original goals seems to have been ignored. The project was sold to a new federal funding agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which was interested, in part at least, because ballistic missiles traveled through the ionosphere and it was important to fully understand that environment. Gordon’s original calculation contained a remarkably beneficial error. Without it, it is doubtful that such a large dish would have been built.
 
György Kulin using the 24-in reflector at the Konkoly Observatory. Kulin discovered (1441) Bolyai, and many other minor planets, with this telescope (courtesy: Hungarian Astronomical Association).
The discoverer György Kulin ¶s (1939: 118) article in Csillagászati Lapok. Kulin wrote about the denomination of (1441) Bolyai in the second paragraph: ³Az 1441 sorszámú és 1937 WA ideiglenes jelzéssel ellátott bolygó a nagy magyar matematikus Bolyai János nevének megörökítésére a Bolyai nevet kapta.´ This translates as: ³The minor planet numbered 1441, temporarily designated as 1937 WA, received the name Bolyai after the great Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai.´
Article
The nineteenth century mathematician Jénos Bolyai was a founder of non-Euclidean geometry, and a minor planet discoverer wanted to honor him by naming an asteroid after him in 1939. However, most later sources give a mistaken justification for the origin of the name of minor planet (1441) Bolyai, claiming that it was named after his father, Farkas Bolyai. In this short paper we present a copy of the original naming of this minor planet after Jénos Bolyai, and we explain why later scholars continued to erroneously associate it with Farkas Bolyai.
 
Alleged detections of Venus' moon prior to 1761. 
The Round Tower in Copenhagen.  
Drawings in the observation diary in 4 January 1768, where the moon of Venus is clearly depicted.  
Hell's (1766) illustrations of how a bright planet produces an illusion of a satellite in the eye of the observer.  
Article
With the invention of the telescope around 1600 astronomers saw a new world in the sky. They saw mountains on the Moon, moons around Jupiter and Saturn, and a few astronomers believed they saw a moon orbiting Venus. That moon became a problem for astronomers because they only saw it occasionally, separated by many years. The moon was reportedly seen in Italy, France, England, Germany and Denmark between 1645 and 1768. Thereafter it disappeared from the sky. The most obvious explanation was, of course, that the moon never existed. In this paper we detail the observations and how they were assessed. The last reports about this phantom moon of Venus came from the observatory in Copenhagen between 1761 and 1768. In this paper we focus especially on these observations. Observations elsewhere are treated in Kragh (2008). We shall argue that the alleged Venus moon detections were not constructions in the brain, influenced by astronomers' expectations that Venus, like the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, ought to have a companion. Most astronomers who thought they saw the moon had no preconceived ideas about a Venusian moon. We shall show that from the late 1760s it became generally accepted that the so-called 'moon of Venus' was a ghost image in the telescope, a reflection of Venus in the lens' surfaces.
 
Article
Many of the observations of Buenaventura Suárez (1679-1750), a Jesuit astronomer who worked in the missions of Paraguay, were made known in prestigious contemporary scientific European periodicals such as the Acta Societatis Regiae Scientiarum Upsalensis and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Suarez recorded lunar and solar eclipses, and immersions and emersions of the satellites of Jupiter for the purpose of determining the longitude of the mission towns he lived in. He was able to keep abreast of the state of the field and communicate his results through the intermediacy of an epistolary net with correspondents in Europe and the New World.
 
Article
Telescopes, reflecting telescopes in particular, underwent considerable development during the eighteenth century. Two classes of telescope maker, the for-profit artisan and the amateur 'gentleman-philosopher,' learned techniques of optical fabrication and testing and produced usable astronomical instruments. One means of disseminating technical knowledge was via the book. The year 1738 saw the publication of a highly-influential book, Robert Smith's A Compleat System of Opticks, a work that included detailed information on telescope-making. It was this book that helped spark the astronomical career of William Herschel, and with Smith's information Herschel produced large reflecting telescopes of exquisite quality. However, artisan-opticians, even the renowned James Short, appear to have cut corners on a portion of their production, thus permitting the sale of some instruments of inferior quality. The reasons for this were clearly economical in nature: artisans depending on telescope sales to earn a living simply could not afford the time required for perfection. The mere presence of written works disseminating technical
 
Article
Edmond Halley was perhaps the first, in 1715, to draw the path of an eclipse as seen from above, looking down at the Earth's surface. I compare four eclipse-path maps drawn for Halley: one before the 1715 eclipse, one with a corrected path after the eclipse and including the predicted path for the 1724 eclipse, a reissue of that map just before the latter eclipse, and a different map for that latter eclipse. These maps are in the collection of the Houghton Library of Harvard University. For comparison, I provide a current map of the 1999 total solar-eclipse path, which is similar to that of 1724.
 
Article
This short communication summarises the contribution to astronomy made by the 'Kennedy Dish', a stand-alone 18-m (60-ft) parabolic antenna that originally was located at the CSIRO's Fleurs Field Station near Sydney and subsequently was transferred to Parkes and used in conjunction with the 64-m Parkes Radio Telescope as the 'Parkes Interferometer'.
 
Article
Nineteenth-century Ireland, and especially Dublin, had a vibrant scientific tradition. And astronomy in particular was seriously cultivated, being part of an Irish tradition extending back to early medieval times. This paper examines principally the career of Sir Robert Stawell Ball, who, while holding three prestigious posts in Ireland, namely those of Andrews Professor at Trinity College, Dublin, Royal Astronomer of Ireland, and Director of the Dunsink Observatory, became famous for his genius as a popular astronomical interpreter, lecturer, and writer. The paper looks at Ball's wider career, the circumstances that provided a receptive market for astronomical information across the English-speaking world, and his massive outreach as both a lecturer and a writer.
 
Article
In April 1845 Lord Rosse discovered the spiral structure of M51 with his 72-inch reflector at Birr Castle. Already in March the new telescope had been pointed at the object in Canes Venatici, later nicknamed the 'Whirlpool Nebula'. Two experienced astronomers were present: Sir James South and the Reverend Thomas Romney Robin-son. The problem is that there is no record that they noticed the spiral structure, even though it was immediately seen by Lord Rosse the next month. The solution presented here is based on evidentiary facts, highlighting the nineteenth century astronomical praxis. Focal points are bias, fantasy and a sometimes fatal conspiracy of eye and brain.
 
Article
Mrs Mary Evershed is principally remembered in astronomical circles as the wife and collaborator of John Evershed, Director of the Kodaikanal Observatory in India in the early part of the twentieth century. Her own independent work on the astronomy of the poet Dante, written under her maiden name M.A. Orr, remains better known today among Dante scholars than among astronomers. This paper outlines her life and records her contributions to solar observations, to the history of astronomy, and to Dante studies.
 
The Sun's equivalent diameter, D, as a function of time, derived from different sunspot photographs. D re- presents the Sun's diameter if the entire solar disk is photographed with the same magnification as the sunspots.
Portrait of João Carlos de Brito Capelo (1831–1901) (after O Occidente, Volume 24: 100 (1901)).  
Langley's drawing of the 23-24 December 1873 sunspot (after Young, 1881).  
Diagram constructed from the Biblioteca do Instituto Geofísico correspondence volumes illustrating Capello's solar photography communications. Single arrows indicate letters that were sent, double arrows show that photographs were also exchanged. None of the photographs sent to Lisbon seem to have survived. Note: The identification of Lewis Rutherfurd is based on a single ambiguous Capello draft letter. This is the reason why we use a question mark in front of his name.  
Capello's enlargement of a sunspot group, taken on 23 April 1872 (after Secchi's Le Soleil, Volume 2, 1878: 879).
Article
The Infante D. Luiz Observatory, located in Lisbon, was one of the leading Portuguese meteorologic and magnetic research institutions in the second half of the 19th century. Following the distribution of the equipment bought by the Portuguese government for the total solar eclipse expedition of 1870 December 22, the D. Luiz Observatory acquired an equatorial telescope. João Carlos de Brito Capello, one of the two Infante D. Luiz chief observers, seized this opportunity and decided, in early 1871, to embark in a programme of daily solar photography to study the relationship between the solar activity, in particular the sunspots, and the terrestrial magnetic field. The programme was active between 1871 and 1880, albeit intermittently, having been well received by the international community and led to a couple of publications. For a time the Infante D. Luiz Observatory solar photographs not only kept a record of the sunspot activity complementing similar work done elsewhere but were amongst the best available everywhere. This article proposes to give an account of its implementation and development in the context of the solar photography of the period.
 
Article
In 1873 Jules Janssen conceived the first automatic sequential photographic apparatus to observe the eagerly anticipated 1874 transit of Venus. This device, the 'photographic revolver', is commonly considered today as the earliest cinema precursor. In the following years, in order to study the variability or the motion of celestial objects, several instruments, either manually or automatically actuated, were devised to obtain as many photographs as possible of astronomical events in a short time interval. In this paper we strive to identify from the available documents the attempts made between 1873 and 1923, and discuss the motivations behind them and the results obtained. During the time period studied astronomical sequential photography was employed to determine the time of the instants of contact in transits and occultations, and to study total solar eclipses. The technique was seldom used but apparently the modern film camera invention played no role on this situation. Astronomical sequential photographs were obtained both before and after 1895. We conclude that the development of astronomical sequential photography was constrained by the reduced number of subjects to which the technique could be applied.
 
Article
Before the advent of radar, transits of Venus were very important for measuring the distance between the Earth and the Sun. A transit occurred in 1874, and was visible from China, other parts of east and southeast Asia and from India, Australia and New Zealand and certain islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. As a result, many astronomers from Western countries came to China to observe it. According to traditional Chinese astrology, the Sun represented the Emperor, and if the Sun was invaded by other astronomical bodies it meant that the Emperor and the country faced some ominous disaster. In the late nineteenth century, Western astronomical knowledge was widely translated into Chinese and spread among Chinese intellectuals, so the 1874 transit supposedly was easily understood by Chinese intellectuals. Before the transit took place, various Chinese publications introduced this kind of celestial event as science news, but at the same time other influential newspapers and journals discussed the astrological connection between the transit and the fortunes of the nation. In this paper we review these interesting Chinese records and discuss the different attitudes towards the transit exhibited by Chinese intellectuals and officials, during a period when Western learning was being widely disseminated throughout China.
 
Article
The 1874 transit of Venus was regarded as a major event which promised to produce an improved value for the solar parallax and hence the astronomical unit. As a result, the United States dispatched eight different observing parties to far northern and southern hemisphere locations. This paper documents the activities at the Queenstown transit station in the South Island of New Zealand and examines the scientific outcome of the overall American 1874 and 1882 transit programmes. It also mentions other New Zealand-based observations of the 1874 transit, and traces the early development of astronomical photography in New Zealand at a time when this innovative methodology was emerging internationally as a valid tool of the "new astronomy", astrophysics.
 
Stefan Micle (courtesy: www. vesperala. com/uploads/1242654943/gallery_1_81_24429. jpg).
Theodor Ritter von Oppolzer (courtesy: www.univie.ac.at/EPH/Sofi/ sf1999/englhs.html).
Article
The 1874 transit was an event that attracted world-wide attention, and many nations arranged observing stations within their own territories or organized international expeditions in order to try and contribute to one of the most challenging problems in astronomy at the time: the value of the solar parallax (and hence the 'astronomical unit'). Romania was also involved in these exploits when two Austrian astronomers, Edmund Weiss and Theodor von Oppolzer, came to Jassy to observe the transit, with assistance from two Romanian astronomers, Stefan Micle and Neculai Culianu. In this paper I describe the state of Romanian astronomy at this time before providing an account of the transit observations.
 
Article
In 1874, Janssen, Tisserand and others went to Japan to observe the transit of Venus. Most of the members of the team set up their instruments in Nagasaki, while two of them observed at Kobe. Details of the expedition are mentioned. In 1998, on the occasion of an international astronomical conference held in Japan, the participants had the opportunity to visit the place in Nagasaki where the 1874 observations were performed. A few relics were preserved there, and these are discussed in this paper. They consist of a pyramid erected by Janssen and two pillars. At Kobe, the column built by the Governor is also preserved. In 2004, a transit of Venus was observed from Europe. Many observing sites were organized in many countries, including Great Britain and France, with many places for the public, students and amateurs. The event was an opportunity for teachers to give an unusual observing experience to their students.
 
Article
The first major Government-funded German scientific enterprise was triggered by a smaller one to observe the total solar eclipse of 1868. The photoheliograph built for this occasion was later used for transit of Venus observations, together with three similar instruments. Furthermore, five small Fraunhofer heliometers were used to visually measure the position of Venus on the solar disk. The 1874 expeditions went to Tschifu (China), Kerguelen, Auckland and Mauritius Islands, to Isfahan (Persia) and Luxor (Egypt). The low accuracy achieved from the photographic observations led to the abandonment of such studies in the next transit. The 1882 transit expeditions went to Hartford (Connecticut), Aiken (South Carolina), Bahia Blanca (Argentina), Punta Arenas (Chile) and Royal Sound (South Georgia Island). Meticulous calibrations of the heliometers were carried out before and after the transits, and final results of contact timings, photographic and heliometric observations were only published in 1896.
 
Article
The transit of Venus over the Sun expected on 1874 December 9, gave the opportunity to the Italian astronomers of organizing the second scientific mission of the new Kingdom of Italy born in 1861. Pietro Tacchini of the Astronomical Observatory of Palermo was designated to organizing the expedition for the Transit of 1874, and at the same time Giuseppe Lorenzoni of the Astronomical Observatory of Padova took care of getting all the necessary instruments ready and of shipping them to Bengal, eastern India. In this mission the Italians obtained a very important result: they observed, for the first time, details of the spectrum of Venus which confirmed the existence of its atmosphere. At the same time they demonstrated the validity of the spectroscopic observations to determine the exact instant of the contacts.
 
Article
Robert Lundin, apprenticed in nineteenth century optical craftsmanship but employed in twenty century fabrication and engineering, suffered many frustrations during a nonetheless productive career. Son of Carl A.R. Lundin, a senior optician at the famous American firm of Alvan Clark & Sons, Robert grew up building telescopes. As a teenager, he assisted with projects including the 1-m [40-inch] objective for Yerkes Observatory. After his father's death in 1915, he became manager of the Clark Corporation and was responsible for many smaller, successful refractors and reflectors. Lundin also completed major projects, including a highly praised 50.8-cm achromat for Van Vleck Observatory, as well as a successful 33-cm astrograph used at Lowell to discover Pluto. In 1929, a dispute with the owners of the Clark Corporation led to Lundin's resignation and his creation of a new business, "C.A. Robert Lundin and Associates." This short-lived firm built several observatory refractors, including a 26.7 cm for E.W. Rice, the retired chairman of General Electric. But none was entirely successful, and the Great Depression finished off the company. In 1933, Lundin took a job as head of Warner & Swasey's new optical shop, only to experience his greatest disasters. The 2.08-m [82-inch] reflector for McDonald Observatory was delayed for years until astronomers uncovered an error in Lundin's procedure for testing the primary mirror. A 38.1-cm photographic lens for the Naval Observatory was a complete failure. Under pressure to complete a 61-cm Schmidt camera, Lundin seems to have attempted to deceive visiting astronomers. After retirement in the mid 1940s, Lundin moved to Austin, Texas, the home of his daughter, where he died. His difficulties should not obscure his success with many instruments that continue to serve as important research and education tools.
 
Article
Popularization fulfils several important roles beyond those recognized in the culturally-dominant view. Apart from its intended purpose of diffusing scientific knowledge among various audiences, popularization serves practitioners, especially when exercised in the format of a disciplinary `trade' journal. `Trade' journals inform researchers about developments occurring in areas of knowledge production beyond their immediate specialties. Such journals offer routine assessments and reviews of current investigations, innovations, and issues facing researchers and educators alike. These outlets attract new recruits into the profession, through encouragement of research methods and the explication of lingering problems. Most importantly, they serve to shape, direct, and influence peer-level dialogues and decisions upon future courses of action, including the research process itself. In an inversion of the culturally-dominant view of popularization, such trade journals comprise an essential, if little-recognized, component of disciplinary professionalization.
 
Article
Comet Halley's return in 1910 was keenly anticipated globally by scientists and the lay public alike. Although cometary science had progressed rapidly during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, superstition remained significant in different parts of the world and there were fears that people would die if the prediction that the Earth would pass through the comet's tail were correct. Malta was a small British island colony in the Mediterranean, and the inhabitants there were no exception. Local newspapers reported concerns from their readers and from foreign sources, but they also included reassuring scientific information about comets. Under the patronage of the colonial government a local amateur astronomer named Francis Reynolds reassured the public through lectures that he delivered. Overall the local population appeared to have been calm about the impending return. The first recorded sighting from Malta was on 24 April 1910 and the first naked eye sighting occurred the following day. Accounts were published in the local newspapers and in private correspondence, suggesting a high level of public interest in this object. No photographs of the comet from Malta have been traced, but the aforementioned Mr Reynolds and a well-known Maltese artist, G. Cali, did make a number of paintings. On the night when the Earth was due to pass through the comet's tail many local people congregated around the bastions of the city under an overcast sky in the early hours of the morning, but no untoward events were experienced.
 
Article
Sigurd Enebo made two important contributions to variable star research in 1912: the serendipitous discovery of Nova Geminorum II and the introduction of RV Tauri stars as a new class of variables. Based on recently-discovered source material and literature sources, we describe Enebo's variable star program from 1903 to 1942 and highlight some results. Enebo was a meticulous observer who contributed extended time series for several types of variable stars. He determined periods for a large number of them, and was the discoverer of 2 eruptive, 7 long period, and 2 Algol variables.
 
Milutin Milanković, 1879-1958 (after Pantić, 2001: 171).
The letter from his beatitude Ecumenical Partriarch Meletios IV to Milutin Milanković (courtesy: Archive of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 10.131/III-101).
Article
At the Orthodox Church Ecumenical Congress of 1923 in Constantinople one of the important questions discussed was the Julian Calendar reform. In the delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church was the accomplished Serbian geophysicist and astronomer Milutin Milanković (1879-1958), who played a critical role in the proceedings, and whose proposition for calendar reform was adopted. The issues relating to that proposal are discussed here, along with a short history of Milutin Milanković and his work.
 
Article
Between 1930 and 1958, the Washburn Observatory of the University of Wisconsin-Madison was home to pioneering photometric research into the interstellar medium by Joel Stebbins and Albert Whitford. Between 1933 and 1941, Stebbins and Whitford published seminal research on the photometry of stellar reddening, using the Washburn 15-inch refractor and the 60- and 100-inch reflectors at Mount Wilson Observatory. Many factors were responsible for the Washburn Observatory's pre-eminence in this area. This paper reviews their research on interstellar dust during the years 1922-58, the observational technology and scientific methods that were developed at the Washburn Observatory during that time and the scientific discoveries that originated there. We discuss the factors that enabled Washburn Observatory to become a leader in photometry during the first half of the twentieth century. We also draw on the recollections of past and present Washburn Observatory scientists to understand how Washburn's standing led to a subsequent programme of research into the interstellar medium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The resulting portrayal of Washburn Observatory provides insights into the evolution of astronomical research in America, from the beginning of the twentieth century until today.
 
Article
The objective of this paper is to relate the story of a small group of former Yerkes Observatory astronomers, who cooperated in the lighting of the 1933-1934 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition. It is also the story of the use of an early electronic instrument, a photo-electric cell, and utilization of the light from the star Arcturus, to signal the lighting of the Fair, thus furthering the application of astrophysics for the general public.
 
Article
The story of the birth and construction of the 2.3m Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory is told. Details of the intricate control system of the telescope, building and instrumentation are described. The Telescope encompassed all the features of the New Generation Telescopes of the late 1970s: a thin primary mirror, an alt-azimuth mount and a rotating building. It has operated continuously for 28 years, used by Australian and international astronomers. It has a prodigious science output helped by state of the art instrumentation developed by engineers and astronomers at Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories.
 
Top-cited authors
Wayne Orchiston
  • University of Southern Queensland (Toowoomba, Australia)
Duane Hamacher
  • University of Melbourne
Martin George
  • University of Southern Queensland 
Harry Wendt
  • University of Southern Queensland 
James Lequeux
  • Observatoire de Paris