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#932908 08/01/2020 9:46 AM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy

Maria Mitchell - born on August 1, 1818 in Nantucket, Massachusetts - was a true pioneer woman. But she didn't brave a physical wilderness. Hers was the harder job of pioneering higher education for women. She was the first American woman to discover a comet, the first to be elected to scientific societies, and the first woman professor of astronomy.

Maria Mitchell

In her own words, America's first woman professor of astronomy tells of her meetings with the great and good of the nineteenth century. Maria Mitchell's sister Phebe collected excerpts from journals and letters to present a pot pourri of Maria's life, ideas and work.

Maria Mitchell - in Her Own Words

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#934632 Jun 4th a 02:45 PM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy
Irish astronomer Mary Brück, née Conway, was born in Ballivor, County Meath on May 29, 1925.

A graduate of the University College Dublin in 1945 (BSc) and 1946 (MSc), and of the University of Edinburgh in 1950 (PhD), she went on to work at the Dunsink Observatory (pictured), where the German-born astronomer Hermann Alexander Brück had been appointed Director in 1947. She and Hermann Brück were married in 1951 and, following his appointment as Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1957, the family relocated to Edinburgh. Mary was appointed a part-time lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in 1962, eventually rising to the post of senior lecturer and University Fellow, and eventually retiring in 1987. Although her astronomical research included investigations of stars, the interstellar medium and the Magellanic Clouds, Mary Teresa Brück is probably best remembered as a writer, with a particular interest in the history of science. Her published works include ‘The Peripatetic Astronomer: The Life of Charles Piazzi Smyth’ (in collaboration with her husband); ‘Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics’; ‘Women in Early British and Irish Astronomy: Stars and Satellites’; and the popular and influential ‘Ladybird Book of the Night Sky’ (1965). (Image of Mary Teresa Brück courtesy of Royal Observatory, Edinburgh).
[Society for the History of Astronomy]

In May 2001 the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh awarded Dr Brück their Lorimer Medal, given "in recognition of meritorious work in diffusing the knowledge of Astronomy among the general public". The photo shows Dr Mary Bruck (left) with Lorna McCalman (President) and Dr Dave Gavine (former recipient of medal).
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#935673 Jan 3rd a 04:44 PM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy
Rebecca Anne Wood Elson, Canadian-American astronomer and writer, was born on January 2, 1960 in Montreal, Quebec. A bright star, she would excel both in astronomy and writing in her all-too-short life.

As a teenager, Elson often travelled in Canada with her geologist father as he performed field research. She was 16 when she began her bachelor's degree at Smith College, where her major subject was astronomy. Following this, she earned a master's degree from the University of British Columbia. During that time she undertook summer study visits to the University of St Andrews, and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, which led to her first published research article and her interest in globular clusters of stars.

Her PhD was taken at the Institute of Astronomy and Christ’s College, Cambridge University in England. She also spent time at two Australian observatories. Elson then did her postdoctoral work at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). In 1987, she was the first-named author on a major review article on star clusters for the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

In 1989 Elson took up a Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe College where she taught creative writing, followed by a term teaching a Harvard expository writing course on science and ethics. In that same year, she became the youngest astronomer selected to serve on a US National Academy of Sciences decennial review.

In the early 1990s she returned to the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, UK to accept the research position she would hold for the remainder of her life. Sadly, at the age of 29 Elson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphona. With treatment, it went into remission and in 1996, she married the Italian artist Angelo di Cintio. However, the cancer returned soon afterwards. Elson died of the disease in Cambridge in May 1999, at the age of 39.

A volume of wide-ranging poetry and essays she wrote from her teens until shortly before her death was published posthumously as A Responsibility to Awe in 2001 in the United Kingdom, and in 2002 in the United States. Some of the works refer to vast concepts of physics and astronomy, often in unexpectedly abstract or playful ways, to reflect aspects of human experience. Others reflect profound joy with life or poignant observations of her impending death. The collection was selected as one of the best books of the year by the magazine The Economist.

In her short career, Elson was also lead author on – or contributed to – seventy scientific contributions, including thirty-eight major articles in the refereed scientific literature research papers.

Source: Wikipedia
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#935890 Feb 10th a 10:56 AM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy
Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson was born on February 9, 1960 in Mount Ayr, Iowa.

She earned a Ph.D in biochemistry from Rice University in Texas. Before becoming an astronaut candidate, she had worked as a research biochemist. During her time with NASA, she spent more time in space than any other NASA astronaut. (Her record is still unbroken.) Among all astronauts - and cosmonauts! - she has the record for the number of spacewalks by a woman and is fifth overall for time spent on EVAs. Whitson was also the first woman commander of the International Space Station (ISS).

Not all of her work with NASA was in space. She spent a few years as Chief Astronaut. Whitson was not only the first woman to hold this position, but also the first appointee who was not a pilot.
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#936227 Apr 14th a 10:11 AM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy
Northern Irish astronomer and mathematician Annie Scott Dill Maunder (née Russell) was born in Strabane, County Tyron on April 14, 1868.

Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916, she was already a member of the British Astronomical Association (of which her husband was a founder member in 1890). She had been rejected as a fellow 24 years earlier because the RAS didn't accept women until 1916. (Shame!)

Annie took part in five expeditions with her husband Edward Walter Maunder to observe total solar eclipses, these being to Lapland (9 Aug 1896), India (22 Jan 1898, during which event she obtained the longest coronal extension photographed up to that time), Algiers (28 May 1900, which she observed and photographed from the roof of the Hotel de la Régence, Algiers), Mauritius (18 May 1901) and Labrador (30 Aug 1905).

As well as serving two periods as editor of the Journal of the British Astronomical Society (1894-1896 and 1917-1930), she wrote several books in collaboration with her husband Edward Walter Maunder, including ‘The Heavens and Their Story’ (1908). The 54 km diameter lunar crater Maunder, located on the northern shores of Mare Orientale and just beyond the western limb of the Moon, is named in her honour and in honour of Edward Walter Maunder.

Credit: Society for the History of Astronomy
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#936327 May 12th a 09:34 PM
by Mona - Astronomy
Mona - Astronomy
American Astrophysicist Dr Kim Weaver was born on 19 April 1964 in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Dr Weaver says:
I have always loved astronomy. As a child I was lucky enough to have parents and grandparents who encouraged this love of astronomy and gave me some pretty amazing books to read. My favorite was a book that had lots of visible images and artists' impressions of stars and galaxies. Although the images were grainy and fuzzy (it was the 1970's, after all, and optical telescopes were still somewhat inadequate for detailed pictures), I would spend hours staring at the photographs and wondering what these objects were really like.

In her 20s, she had already discovered a galaxy and been awarded a PhD for her study of "The Complex Broad-band X-ray Spectra of Seyfert Galaxies". Soon after that she received a Presidential Early Career award to continue her X-ray work on black holes. She has had various jobs, including that of Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters for the Spitzer Space Telescope, Associate Director for Science at NASA's Goddard Flight Center, and more recently, US Project Scientist for XMM-Newton, an X-ray space observatory launched by the European Space Agency.

Dr Weaver says:
I chose to work in the field of x-ray astronomy because of the thrill and excitement of the new ways of looking at our universe that are available to today's astronomers. X-rays were discovered a mere 110 years ago and it has only been 40 years since we developed the technology to send x-ray telescopes into space.

And she's not selfish about hoarding the excitement of X-Ray astronomy.
I have always wanted to understand more about how our universe works and I especially enjoy communicating this information to others. We cannot see x-rays with our eyes, but by using today's x-ray telescopes, astronomers are learning more than they ever dreamed about space, time and our universe.

Books like the ones she devoured as a child make her want to inspire new generations to look to the stars. She has appeared in television programs and films as “the public face of NASA at Goddard,” and has written a popular book The Violent Universe: Joyrides Through the X-Ray Cosmos.
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