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"The first lady's comet" #922169 08/01/17 06:20 PM
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Mona - Astronomy Offline OP
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On August 1, 1786 Caroline Herschel discovered a comet. She was credited with being the first woman to do so and the comet was referred to as "the first lady's comet". It has turned out to be the second comet known to have been discovered by a woman. In 1702 Maria Margarethe Kirsch discovered a comet, but the credit was given to her husband Gottfried, a well known astronomer.

Interestingly, for a long time Miss Herschel had been thought to be the first woman paid as an astronomer. She was given a salary by the king of England for assisting her brother William. However more recent research shows that for over a decade before Caroline's recognition by King George III of England, the Berlin Academy had been paying a salary to Christine Kirsch for astronomical work. Christine was the daughter of Maria Margarethe and Gottfried Kirsch.


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Re: "The first lady's comet" [Re: Mona - Astronomy] #922192 08/02/17 01:15 PM
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The first comet that Caroline Herschel discovered has since been classified as Comet C/1786 P1 (Herschel) This is a photo of the entries in Herschel's observing journal that described her observations of the comet. (The journal itself is in the library of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.)


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Re: "The first lady's comet" [Re: Mona - Astronomy] #922234 08/04/17 02:23 PM
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The comet we know as 2P/Encke was "discovered" many times, including by Caroline Herschel.

However each time it was considered to be a different comet . . . until German astronomer Johann Encke worked out that several "discoveries" were reappearances of the same comet coming back every 3.3 years. French astronomer Pierre Méchain was the first person to report it, but it was named for Encke when he correctly predicted its return.

The "2P" means that the comet is the second known periodic comet, one that is known to return. The first, of course, was Halley's Comet whose return was correctly predicted by Edmond Halley.

Image credit: Damian Peach


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Re: "The first lady's comet" [Re: Mona - Astronomy] #922257 08/06/17 04:15 AM
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Caroline Herschel discovered a comet in December which was then widely observed by other astronomers. In 1939 Roger Rigollet in France discovered a comet. It was determined to be the one discovered by Herschel and to have a period of 155 years.

The comet has been named 35P/Herschel-Rigollet. It's the 35th known periodic comet and carries the names of the two independent discoverers.

Image: Taken 15/16 August 1939 at Hamburg Observatory.
Copyright © 2010-2015 Hamburger Sternwarte, Fachbereich Physik, MIN-Fakultät, Universität Hamburg.


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