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Fun Facts - ASTRONOMY



Famous Astronomers

  • John Couch Adams ( Britain, 1819-92 )

  • Studied the Leonid meteor shower and predicted the existence of Neptune, which was discovered in 1846.


  • Edward Emerson Barnard (USA, 1857-1923)

  • Discovered Barnard's Star and Amalthea, a moon of Jupiter.


  • Nicolaus Copernicus (Poland, 1473-1543)

  • Showed that the Sun was at the centre of the Solar System.


  • George Ellery Hale (USA, 1868-1938)

  • Pioneered the astronomical study of the Sun and founded observatories one with a major telescope named after him.


  • Edmond Halley (Britain, 1656-1742)

  • Predicted the orbits of comets, including the one that bears his name.


  • William Herschel (Germany/Britain, 1738-1822)

  • Built huge telescopes, compiled catalogues of stars and discovered moons of Saturn and Uranus.


  • Edwin Hubble (USA, 1889-1953 )

  • Made important discoveries about galaxies. The Hubble Space Telescope was named in his honour.


  • Christiaan Huygens (Holland, 1629-95)

  • Discovered Saturn's rings and devised the wave theory of light.


  • Percival Lowell (USA, 1855-1916)

  • Percival Lowell was founder of the Lowell Observatory, Arizona. He predicted that a planet would be found in the region where Pluto was later discovered.


  • Charles Messier (France, 1730-1817)

  • Studied comets and eclipses, but he is best known for his catalogue of stars first published in 1774.


  • Galileo Galilei (Italy, 1564-1642)

  • Made important discoveries concerning gravity and motion. He built some of the first telescopes used in astronomy and used them to discover many previously unknown space objects.

Telescopes And Observatories

  • Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
  • Founded by King Charles II in 1675, but atmospheric and light pollution in London reduced its effciency. In 1884 the Prime or Greenwich Meridian, 0o, which passes through the Observatory, was adopted as the basis for all mapping and meassurements. Longitude measurements refer to west or east of the meridian.


  • Herschel's "Forty-Foot" reflector, Slough
  • A giant telescope built in 1788 with a 1.2m (3.9 ft) mirror.


  • Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland
  • The Earl of Rosse's 1.8m (5.9 ft) reflecting telescope, built in 1845, was used to discover the spiral form of galaxies. It was the world's largest until the opening of Mount Wilson.


  • Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin, USA

    This 1m (3.25 ft) telescope is the biggest refracting instrument made up to this time. It was completed in 1897.


  • Mount Wilson Observatory, California, USA
  • The teleschope was installed in 1917 with a mirror size of 2.5 m (8.2 ft). It was the world's largest until the Hale.


  • Hale Telescope, Palomar Observatory, California, USA
  • The Hale's 5 m (16.4 ft) telescope was first used in 1949.


  • Jodrell Bank, Cheshire
  • Britain's first, and once the world's largest radio telescope, with a 76 m (249.ft) dish, began operating in 1957.


  • Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
  • Completed in 1963, this is the world's most powerful radio telescope. Its uses include searching for pulsars and quasars and the search for alien life forms under the SETI (Search for Extra - Terrestrial Intelligence ) programme. Its gaint 305 m (1,000.65 ft) dish features in the final scenes of the James Bond Film Golden Eye (1995).


  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) was launched in 1990 and orbits 600 km (372.8 miles) above Earth's atmosphere. It can photograph distant objects with ten times the detail possible with ground - based telescopes.


  • Keck I & II Telescopes, Mauna Kea Observatory Hawaii, USA
  • The two Keck telescopes were opened in 1992-96. They are situated 4,000 m (13,123 ft) up a Hawaiian mountain, so above 40 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. They are the world's most powerful ground - basaed based instruments, with a 10.82 m (35.5 ft) total aperture made up of 36 hexagonal mirrors.


  • Hobby-Eberly Telescope, McDonald Observatory, Texas, USA
  • This telescope is designed to collect light for spectrum analysis rather than for visual exploration. It has been in operation since 1999, and has an overall diameter of 11 m (36.1 ft), making it one of the largest ever optical telescopes.


  • Large Binocular Telescope, Arizona ,USA
  • The Large Binocular Telescope completed in 2007, is the largest and most advanced optical telescope ever built. Sited at Mount Graham International Observatory. It has two 8.4m (25.5 ft) mirrors, giving a total area equal to one giant 11.4 m (37.4 ft) diameter mirror. It is expected to produce images as much as 10 times the resolution of those produced by the much smaller Hubble Space Telescope.


International Space Station


The International Space Station is the biggest object ever flown in space. It travels around the Earth at an average speed of 27,700 km/h, completing 16 orbits per day. At night it can easily be seen from Earth, as it flies 320 kilometres above us. 16 countries, including the USA, Russia, Japan, Canada and many ESA member states worked together to build the Station.

The largest part of the ISS is a central truss to which 16 huge solar panels are attached. The modules where the astronauts live and work are attached to the centre of the truss. Europe’s biggest ISS project is the Columbus science laboratory, where astronauts can carry out scientific experiments in weightless conditions. Many different types of experiments can take place both inside and outside this space laboratory.

ESA also makes the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), a series of uncrewed spacecraft designed to take supplies to the ISS. The cargo craft delivers food, fuel, equipment and other supplies. The ATV has been very successful and there are now plans to design an even more advanced version. This spacecraft would be able to bring cargo and finished experiments back to Earth.
(source esa.int)