Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Saturday February 3, 1894

Rebekah Higgitt says.....
There is a brief gap in both the Astronomer Royal's and Chief Assistant's Journals at this point, suggesting that events at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich were of a routine nature. However, the list of equatorial observations among the archives in Cambridge do record that on 3 February 1894 Right Ascension and North Polar Distance observations were taken of the Crab Nebula.

The Crab Nebula: the shattered remenants of a massive star after a super nova explosion. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Gehrz (University of Minnesota) on NASA website.

The 1894 Report of the Astronomer Royal to the Board of Visitors gives a bit more information. The observations were made with the Sheepshanks Equatorial (named after its donor, Richard Sheepshanks) and the observations were made "for determination of personality in cometary observations". In other words, they wanted to test the differences in observations when made by different observers, or their Personal Equations. December 1893 had seen observations of Comet Brooks, March-April 1894 was to see Comet Denning, in May-July 1894 Comet Gale was visible, and Encke's Comet arrived at the end of the year.

This image, from the NASA website, is not, of course, quite what the Greenwich observers would have seen through the Sheepshanks Equatorial!

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