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Deep sky birthdays for November

Three deep sky observers of yore have birthdays this week: William Herschel (1738), the Fourth Earl of Rosse, and Stephane Javelle.

Friedrich Wilhelm (William) Herschel was born on 15 November 1738 in Hanover, Germany.

"As the discoverer of the planet Uranus and the most successful practitioner of the new field of stellar astronomy, Sir William Herschel expanded the scope of the known Solar System and of the Universe beyond it."

"Some of Herschelís most innovative research regarded the 'nebulae' Ė a general term at that time for what are today recognized as reflection nebulae, HII regions, planetary nebulae, open and globular clusters, and galaxies. Although only a hundred such objects were known when Herschel began to observe them, he discovered and cataloged over 2,400 more and brought them to a central position in his cosmology."

"Although Herschel had by 1811 backed away from his earlier (and correct) belief that some nebulous objects are island universes independent of the Milky Way, his exhaustive observations, extensive catalogs, and careful speculations regarding the stars and nebulae were enough to lay firm foundations for cosmology and stellar astronomy. The latter field, although it scarcely existed before Herschel made it central to his research, eventually emerged as the dominant discipline of modern astronomy."

[Crowe, M.J. and Lafortune, K.R., in Hockey (2007)]

Herschel died on 25 August 1822 in Slough, England.

Laurence Parsons was born on 17 November 1840 at Birr Castle (King's County, Ireland).

He was the eldest son of William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse, and shared his fatherís enthusiasm for astronomy, continuing the study of nebulae and star clusters at Birr Castle.

He also carried out groundbreaking work on the infrared emission of the Moon, and even succeeded in making an excellent estimate of its surface temperature.

Known in his youth as Lord Oxmantown he studied maths and physics at Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated in 1864.

After completing his studies he turned to the eyepiece and started to observe and sketch nebulae with the 3-foot and 6-foot reflectors, from time to time accompanied by Robert Ball.

His first scientific publication (in 1866) dealt with a water clock to drive an equatorial telescope mounting.

This was followed by a review article of all observations made of the Orion Nebula at Birr Castle since 1849. The article included an engraving of the nebula that John Dreyer said was "always of value as a faithful representation of the appearance of the Orion nebula in the largest telescope of the nineteenth century."

The Third Earl died in October 1867, and Parsons succeeded to the title and the estates.

In 1868, the Fourth Earl began his work on the study of radiant heat from the Moon.

He was elected chancellor of the University of Dublin in 1885 and remained in office until his death, at Birr Castle, on 29 August 1908.

Stephane Javelle was born on 16 November 1864 in Lyon, France.

In 1884 he was appointed "student astronomer" at Nice Observatory, and by 1889 he was using the 76cm refractor at Mont-Gros, the largest refractor in the world at the time.

After a period doing comet and asteroid work, he began (in 1890) to focus on searching for faint nebulae.

His first catalogue of deep sky objects was published in 1895, a second in 1897, and a third in 1908. His fourth and final list (printed only as a preliminary monograph) appeared in 1912.

Overall, in 20 years of uninterrupted systematic search for nebulae, he had discovered and measured 1869 objects. Over half of the objects listed in the Index Catalogue (Dreyer 1895) were credited to Javelle, and 17% of the discoveries included in the Second Index Catalogue were his.

In 1899 ownership of Nice Observatory was transferred to La Sorbonne, Paris, and Javelle was assigned other tasks that left him little time to continue his search for nebulae.

Javelle died on August 3, 1917, in Nice, France.

A photo of Javelle appears on Wolfgang Steinicke's "Javelle" web page.

For further details, see "Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers", edited by Thomas Hockey (Springer 2007)

Bio.Encyc.Astronomers (2007) Hockey, T. (ed) Springer.

Recent news

top story: March newsletter of the ASSA Deep-Sky Section, featuring 47 Tuc on the cover. — "Nightfall" (2015 April) is the current newsletter of the Deep-Sky Observing Section of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.

A globular cluster in the realm of the galaxies — A rare gem - a bright globular cluster in the realm of the galaxies.

The Dark Emu rises, in pursuit of the Magellanic Clouds — The beautiful complex of dark nebulosity along the southern Milky Way appears like an ancient monster, its serpentine neck reaching out as if to gobble up the Magellanic Clouds.

Massive star forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud — Dale Liebenberg images NGC 346, a gigantic star forming region in the SMC.

Flocculent Galaxy in Southern Leo — Dale Liebenberg images the spiral galaxy NGC 3521 in southern Leo.

Ancient open cluster in Lyra — Anthony Ayiomamitis images the old open cluster NGC 6791.

Golden Coin Galaxy — Dale Liebenberg images the Golden Coin, NGC 4945 in Centaurus.

NGC 2467 in Puppis — Dale Liebenberg images NGC 2467 in Puppis.

Last but not least - Messier 103 — Anthony Ayiomamitis images Messier 103 in Cassiopeia.

The Arkenstone of Thrain — Dale Liebenberg images Messier 22, the "Arkenstone of Thrain" according to Burnham.

ConCards available — A handy set of beginner's star charts, "Constellation Cards" are now available for free download.

Deep sky celebrations — Three deep sky observers of yore have birthdays this week: William Herschel (1738), the Fourth Earl of Rosse, and Stephane Javelle.

Necklace Nebula featured on APOD — The recently-discovered planetary nebula nicknamed the Necklace Nebula, recently featured on APOD.

Methuselah Nebula featured on APOD — The old bipolar planetary nebula MWP1, a.k.a. Methuselah Nebula, is today's APOD.

New deepsky book from CUP — Deep sky author Wolfgang Steinicke's latest book, "Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters: From Herschel to Dreyer's New General Catalogue", has just been published by Cambridge University Press.

NGC 1365 in infrared (ESO VLT) — The bright barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 in Fornax has been imaged in the infrared with the ESO VLT telescope.

New HST image of eta Carinae Nebula — New observations, combined with images made in 2005, show beautiful detail in part of the extensive eta Carinae Nebula.

First planetary in open cluster found — A team of astronomers from Australia, the UK, the USA and France have discovered the first planetary nebula known to be associated with a galactic open cluster.

NGC 300 in Sculptor imaged at ESO — The bright spiral galaxy NGC 300 has been imaged with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Superwind galaxy NGC 4666 — A remarkable galaxy with very vigorous star formation has been newly imaged on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

News archives

All earlier news items can be browsed in the archives.

Quote

The amateur astronomer has access at all times to the original objects of his study; the masterpieces of the heavens belong to him as much as to the great observatories of the world. And there is no privilege like that of being allowed to stand in the presence of the original.
Robert Burnham Jr.

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