Although robotic telescopes and spacecraft are becoming increasingly more important in astronomy, the real work is still done by human beings. In these pages we share the stories of some astronomers which have attracted our attention, whether by being recognised by history, or because their work has affected me personally in some way.
Nikolaus Copernicus is commonly believed to be the father of the Solar System, the first brave soul to stand up to the orthodoxy and declare the Sun to be the centre of the universe and not the Earth. This isn’t quite true — the bulk of the credit should go to Johann Kepler, for providing a model that not only worked but was based on physical evidence — but he did make some very important observations and he does indeed …Continue reading →
Isaac Newton was born in 1642 in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England, and is the author of probably the most important scientific book in history. He was a difficult man, and a genius, who spent the majority of his time pursuing heretical religious beliefs and trying to solve the great problems of alchemy – the science for which he is famous was merely a distraction.Young Isaac had an unhappy childhood. His father, a wealthy landowner, died before he was born, and his …Continue reading →
Thales (639-546 B.C.) was born to a wealthy family in the ancient Greek city of Miletus, in a region which is now a part of modern Turkey. As a student he was sent to Egypt to study under the priests, who shared with him the closely guarded secret of the length of the year, the signs of the zodiac and the positions of the solstices. He is generally considered to be the first of the Greek philosophers, as he …Continue reading →
On 11 September 2010 Venus was hidden by the moon in an occultation that was visible from South Africa. Kerneels Mulder managed to capture the tail end of the occultation in a beautiful series of photographs that have been highlighted internationally. I caught up with him, and asked a few questions: Hi Kerneels, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you been interested in Astronomy and what …Continue reading →
Early this year, Nigel Observatory (a private observatory built in the suburbs of the East Rand near Johannesburg) was shutdown and its equipment sold off. I visited the owner, Luciano Pazzi, hoping to buy some of his observing gear and ended up getting a tour of the facilities along with a brief history lesson. Luciano’s home is warm and hospitable, and we chatted for hours about South African astronomy and his impressions of how it had changed over the …Continue reading →