Comet hunter Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel, sister of William Herschel, was the first female astronomer to be paid for her work and in 1828 was the first woman to win the gold award of the Royal Astronomical Society, where the following video was shot and in which we get to see several items related to her, including a letter she wrote to the Royal Society in 1786 describing a comet she’d found. (She later discovered seven more in her lifetime.)

There’s also a notebook in which she recorded her observations, including the time her brother showed her the planet that he’d discovered and was then termed “George’s Star” (after King George), and which we now call Uranus.

And there’s also her personal copy of Flamsteed’s atlast of the heavens, for which she prepared her own index, there not being one in the published version, and in which she made various notes. There’s even a sort of 19th century Post-It note added by her great-granddaughter referencing a family story that William’s son John Herschel (later a major astronomer in his own right) would as a child beg his Auntie Caroline to “Show me the whale!” — the pages for the constellation Cetus, depicting it as a terrifying sea monster.

This might not be interesting to everyone, but I quite liked watching this. (It runs under seven minutes.)


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