** Forwarded from +quot;ASTRONOMY+quot; ** (7847) Wed 25 Aug 93 19:56 By: Nick Stevens To:

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** Forwarded from "ASTRONOMY" ** (7847) Wed 25 Aug 93 19:56 By: Nick Stevens To: All Re: Astro Trivia --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 25 Aug 1993 Astronomy Trivia List: --------------------- The following document is a collection of astronomcal trivia, collected by Starbase One (UK) bulletin board. Contributions are welcome - please see the end of the article for guidelines. Entries are in alphabetical order of subject. Astronomy Trivia: ----------------- Ancient Astronomy: 1. Aristarchus of Samos developed a heliocentric system hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Archimedes used his model to get a distance to the stars of about 1 light year in modern units. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Asteroids: 1. While most asteroids orbit between Mars and Jupiter, 1983 TB gets as close as 9 million miles from the Sun. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy 2. If an asteroid hit the Earth, the effect would be similar to gathering ALL the worlds nuclear weapons together, and detonating them. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 3. Names of asteroids were originally taken from God's and Godesses, but these ran out long ago. There are asteroids called Lennon, McCartney, Edna, Bertha, Geranium, Petunia, Chicago, Granule, Gogol, Laputa, Mark Twain, Karl Marx, NORC, Libya, Atlantis, Utopia, Transyvania, Paradise, Rumpelstilz, Evita, Fanatica, Fanny, Piccolo, Requiem, Lucifer, Tolkein, Echo, Dali, Retsina, Zulu, Limpopo, Bach, Chaucher, Nemo, Smiley, and Mr Spock. Source: (mainly) First Light, Richard Preston. Astronomers: 1. Guillaume le Gentile was perhaps the most unlucky astronomer ever. He went to India to observe a transit of Venus, but was becalmed. Her returned a few years later but was clouded out. He was then stricken with dysentery and came home on a Spanish warship, which lost its mast off the Cape of good hope, and got blown off course past the Azores, before limping into Cadiz. He finally got home after nearly 12 years of absence, only to discover he had been declared dead, and his estate had been divided up amongst creditors and relatives. He promptly renounced astronomy and settled down to write his memoirs. Cassini praised Le Gentile's character but considered that "in his sea voyages he had contracted a little unsociability and brusqueness". Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Big Bang: 1. In 1951 Pope Pius XII pronounced that the Big Bang was compatible with official Catholic Doctrine. Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Black Holes: 1. In Russia black holes are known as frozen stars - this is because the phrase 'black hole' has a distinctly unsavoury use already. Source: N. Stevens. Columbus: 1. Columbus was not unusual in believing that the Earth was round - it was common knowledge among navigators. What was unusual is that he thought the Earth was small - small enough for a circumnavigation to be practical. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Comets: 1. The tail of a comet, whilst visually very impressive is so tenuous it is thinner than the best laboratory vacuum. Source: N. Stevens 2. Jean D'Angos, a knight of Malta, attempted to fake a comet discovery, by calculating an orbit then claiming to have observed a matching object. Unfortunately for him, he was spotted when Johann Enke realised that a comet culd only move in such an apparent path if the Earth was ten times further from the Sun than it really is. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy. Cosmology: 1. Steven Hawking was born on the 300th aniversary of Galileo's death. Source: Lonely hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye 2. If the galaxy was the size of a dime (say a 5p piece), then the radius of the universe would be about 4 miles. Jim Gunn, quoted in First Light by Richard Preston. Heather Couper 1. Heather Couper has described herself as 'the Aneka Rice of Astronomy'. Source: Ian Ridpath Galileo: 1. Galileo did NOT invent the refracting telescope. But he did everything he could to encourage people in the belief that he had. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. Galileo thought that Keplers theory, that the Moon produced the tides, was quite ridiculous. He wrote 'he has nevertheless lent his ear and his assent to the Moon's dominion over the waters, to occult properties, and to such puerilities.' Source: Coming of Age in the Mily Way, Tim Ferris. 3. Galileo observed Neptune - it is marked as a field object in one of his early drawings of Jupiter's satellites, but he did not realise what it was. Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. George Ellery Hale: 1. Hale used to jog for miles around Mt Wilson, reciting Italian poetry as he went. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 2. Hale had a vivid imagination. He believed he was visited by an elf, who gave him advice on how to run his life. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 3. While riding through Pasadena one day he observed two other men on moterbikes, and challenged them to a race. As he roarede away he heard sirens behind - he had failed to notice that the men were policemen, and was arrested. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. Edmond Halley: 1. At one point Halley's salary from the Royal Society was being paid in copies of the book 'History of Fishes'. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. Halley did not live to see the return of the comet which bears his name. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris 3. Flamsteed once commented that Halley 'swore and drank brandy like a sea captain'. On one occasion Halley got drunk with Peter the Great, and ended up pushing him through a hedge in a wheelbarrow! Source: Explorers of Space, Patrick Moore William Herschell: 1. Virtually nothing could stop Herschell from observing. He would observe even when it was so cold his ink froze, and when at Datchet he would often wade through flood waters to get to his telescope, and would rub his his hands and face with onion to stave off ague. Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. At one point Herschell wanted to build a 3 foot mirror, and as no foundry would take on the job tried to do it himself. He built a mould out of vast quantities of horse dung, which he, his wife, his brother, and some friends pounded into shape. Unfortunately the mould cracked, and molten metal flowed out across the floor, exploding the flagstones. Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Hubble: 1. Edwin Hubble managed to upset Howard Shapely - he wrote 'of no consequence' across a draft of one of Shapely's papers, and his comment was published in the paper in a journal. Source: Lonely hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye 2. One of Hubbles favorite tricks to impress visitors was to sweep all the papers off his desk into the bin when a visitor arrived. After the visitor had gone, Hubble would dig them out again. Source: Lonely hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye Huygens: 1. Christian Huygens attempted to measure the distance to Sirius by looking at the Sun through a pinhole, until it looked as bright as Sirius. As the hole admitted 1/27664 of the Sun's light, he concluded that if it was the same brightness as the Sun it was 27,664 times further away. (This is a twenty fold under estimate - Sirius is considerabley brighter than the Sun). Source: Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Kepler: 1. Johannes Kepler did not have a happy marriage - he described his wife as: 'simple of mind and fat of body... stupid, sulking, lonely and melancholy.' Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. Kepler attempted to make a living casting horoscopes, but was very rarely paid. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Meteors and Meteorites: 1. USAF detectors intended to pick up clandestine above ground nuclear tests also pick up big meteor arrivals, including one over the South Atlantic which registered at half a megaton. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. The Moon: 1. Whilst lunar 'seas' are well known, areas of the Moon were at one time also named after lands - for example Terra Sterilitatis, the land of sterility. Source: Riccioli's map of the Moon, 1651. 2. Dr H H Nininger suggested in 1952 that the crater pair Messier and Messier A in Mare Fecunditatis in fact formed a tunnel through the intervening ridge, caused by an extremely shallow meteor impact creating both at one stroke. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy. Newton: 1. When a young man, Isaac Newton built fake flying saucers out of wax paper canopies with candles beneath. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. Newton had invented Infinitesmal Calculus before he had even received his batchelors degree, but he chose not to publish, fearing it would disrupt his privacy. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Palomar: 1. Prime focus observers at Mount Palomar get music of their choice piped up to them while they are doing pbserving runs. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. When the blank for the Palomar mirror was being transported, it was encased in armour, in case anyone took a shot at it. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 3. Final tests on the Palomar mirror revealed a very slight astigmatism. Rather than spend a long time refiguring the problem was fixed by attaching 4 fishermans spring scales to the back, to apply a very light tension. (In 1981 a technician couldn't work out what they were doing there, and removed them. Complaints from the astronomers soon had them back in place). Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 4. Don Schneider was at prime focus when it occured to him that he had never seen Venus through the Big Eye. On moving to the eyepeice he reeled back in pain, as a beam like that from a film projector hit him in the eye. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 5. The Palomar scope, equiped with the '4 Shooter' CCD detector is sensitive enough to pick up the glow of a cigarette at 700 miles distance. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 6. Rudolph Minkowski was a very large man, and he always had a lot of trouble in the small prime focus cage, resulting in all sorts of strange noises. The night assistants thought these noises so interesting that they recorded them, and passed the tape around. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 7. Smoking is very strictly forbidden in the prime focus cage, for obvious reasons. However the cage always reeked of cigarette smoke after Minkowsky had been in it, though it was difficult to work out what he was doing with the cigarette ends. The night assistants worked out he was throwing them onto the main mirror. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 8. The moving parts of the 200 inch Hale telescope weigh 1.1 million pounds, yet it is driven by a 1/12th horsepower motor the size of a grapefruit. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. Pluto: It is generally held that Clyde Tombagh discovered the 9th planet - however if you include Minor Planets (or asteroids), he discovered the 1164th! Source: First Light, Richard Preston. Bernhard Schidt 1. The inventor of the Scmidt camera blew his right arm off with a home made pipe bomb when he was eleven. This makes the superb quality of his hand ground optics even more impressive... Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 2. When Scmidt ground his first corrector plate he worked for 36 hours continually, before being found unconcious. On being roused he refused coffee and sandwiches, because there was 12 hours more work to do - he smoked a couple of cigars then finished it. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 3. Schidt drank himself to death, and is buried in the graveyard he used to test the optics of his first Scmidt camera. His gravestone is marked with with his name, a star, and the words 'PER ASPERA AD ASTRA' Source: First Light, Richard Preston. Sirius: 1. Many ancient astronomical texts describe the colour of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, as red. These include works by Ptolemy and Lucius Seneca amongst others. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy. Telescopes: 1. The Homestake Mine is possibly the most unusual astronomical observatory. It houses a neutrino telescope a mile underground, and has never seen a ray of sunlight or starlight. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy Tycho Brahe: 1. The astronomer Tycho had an extremely well appointed observatory. The castle contained its own paper mill, a private jail, flush toilets and an intercom system - not bad for the 16th century. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 2. Tycho had a metal alloy nose. The original one was cut off in a duel when he was a youth. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. 3. Tycho died on Oct 24 1601, when his bladder burst from drinking too much beer at a royal dinner party.. Source: Coming of age in the Milky Way, Tim Ferris. Variables: 1. Sir John Herschell was convinced that the star Alphard (Alpha Hydrae) was distinctly variable. Source: Patrick Moore's Armchair Astronomy Zwicky: 1. Fritz Zwicky had many unusual ideas - including a proposal to shoot artillery bursts over Mount Palomar to make the air more transparent. Source: Lonely hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye. 2. He also ordered the Palomar night assisant to shoot hole in the dome of the Palomar 200 inch, to improve air circulation. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 3.Zwicky did not get on with the night assistants - hardly surprising in the light of the last two items. He described them as 'spherical bastards' because (he said), 'they are bastards every way I look at them'. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. 4. Zwicky at one point put an explosive charge on the nose of an Aerobee rocket, which was triggered at the height of the trajectory. He therefore claimed to be the first person to send an artifact (albeit a scrap of schrapnel) to escape velocity. Source: First Light, Richard Preston. Unsubstantiated: ---------------- It would be appreciated if anyone could throw any light on the following suggestions, true or false: 1. An astronomer mistook a background star in the Mizar/Alcor field for a planet, and named it after King George. 2. An early astronomer royal hung a a model of Saturn from a nearby tree, so the King would not be disappointed if the weather was cloudy. Guidelines for contributing to the astro trivia: ------------------------------------------------ Submissions for inclusion in astro trivia should conform to the following guidelines. Entries should be short, a rough limit of 20 lines of text at 80 characters to the line is recommended. A source for the information should be included. Entries should be related to astronomy, rather than space exploration. There is a very good list of space exploration trivia on the USENET. Unsubstantiated suggestions will be placed in a separate section near the end of the article, in case readers can confirm or deny the story. Entries about general science personalities will be considered, if their field has or had an impact on Astronomy. For example Einstein and Newton are suitable subjects. Fallacies are not generally suitable for inclusion. For example, modern Flat Earth theories are not suitable Contributions may be submitted by the following means: A message to the sysop on Starbase One BBS. A NETMAIL message to Starbase One BBS, (Fidonet 2:440/407) An email message to starbase1@cix.compulink.co.uk

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