Monday, January 19, 2009

Maria Mitchell Observatory

As I ambled through Caledon Downs the other day, I stopped suddenly. Where Old Fort St. Edmunds used to be was...nothing. Well, the fort was old. Still, one can only wonder what will rise in its place.

I peered closer. Was that an observatory on the hill?

Indeed it was - the Maria Mitchell Observatory, owned by Miss Nocti Heliosense, and named after a female astronomer . As the notecard says,

" Maria Mitchell, 1818 - 1889

Taught by her astronomer father, Maria Mitchell was the first professional woman astronomer in the United States and became a professor of astronomy at Vassar College (1865-1888). She was the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1848), and was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Using a telescope, she discovered "Miss Mitchell's Comet" (Comet 1847 VI, modern designation is C/1847 T1) in the autumn of 1847. Some years previously, King Frederick VI of Denmark had established gold medal prizes to each discoverer of a "telescopic comet" (too faint to be seen with the naked eye). The prize was to be awarded to the "first discoverer" of each such comet (note that comets are often independently discovered by more than one person). She duly won one of these prizes, and this gave her worldwide fame, since the only previous woman to discover a comet had been Caroline Herschel.

She was also involved in the anti-slavery movement. She refused to wear cotton because of its connection with slavery in the South, a commitment she continued after the Civil War ended. She also supported women's rights efforts and traveled in Europe."

The smaller telescope seems perfect for keeping tabs on neighbors.


Nocti Heliosense said...

Thank you for the article about my humble observatory, Miss Jameson. I am still making improvements and hope to host an opening event soon.

I'm grateful to Mr. Desmond Shang for helping me find such an ideal location and making me feel welcome. The Steampunk Resource Centre is nearby (a place I've made frequent use of and highly recommend) and the Tesla Society Steambox is a short walk down the hill. It is flanked on two sides by hills which offer some protection to the neighbors from Experiments Gone Terribly Wrong, runaway aircraft, and other building mishaps.

In short, I'm delighted to be making my home here. :)

Rhianon Jameson said...

A belated welcome to the Downs, Miss Heliosense (and what a fitting name for one whose interest lies in the skies!). It is a lovely area.

I assure you, we are no strangers to Experiments Gone Terribly Wrong, what with Miss Falcon and Professor Swindlehurst nearby. I have reinforced the structure and windows in my residences to be able to afford protection against anything short of Disruptions in the Space-Time Continuum or a Rift in the Fabric of Reality.

And should any experiments go awry, one can always pop into the Steampunk Resource Centre coffee shop for a soothing cup to calm one's nerves - assuming, of course, that one's experiment has left one with arms, fingers, and opposable thumbs with which to hold the cup.