WMacDonald's blog

An Astronomical Anecdote

One of my old observing buddies, the late Steve Chomniak (Toronto Centre), once told me a story about one time that he went to our dark-sky site in the concessions northeast of Oshawa by himself...

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Halloween Thoughts

With days shortening, nights lengthening, and Halloween growing near it is only natural that our thoughts should turn to the dead—and some of them were astronomers. (Insert blood-curdling scream here!)

Throughout history dead people have been interred in grounds sacred or not, either singly or in mass graves. Some had resting places in more formal tombs or crypts, perhaps even inside a church building. But did you know that a few “lucky” people are buried in observatories?

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Solar Eclipses and Totality

Totality, 1932 IN THE DISTANT PAST, the Moon was much closer to the Earth.

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Very Rare Superoutburst of PR Herculis

Winchester Observatory has monitored hundreds of variable stars with an automated imaging system over the last nine years. Most are run of the mill long period variables (mainly Mira-type stars) that vary slowly and somewhat predictably; the rest are the much more exciting cataclysmic variables (CVs)—stars that undergo sudden and dramatic increases in brightness.

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Big Glass

EVERYONE SAYS that the great 40" refractor at Yerkes Observatory is the world’s largest, but did you know that there was actually a larger refractor built in France? It was on display at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900 and had an objective of 49.2 inches. The optical tube was mounted horizontally and fed by a 79-inch flat mirror which tracked the sky. A handful of scientific observations were made with the telescope during the Exhibition, but no buyer was ever found for it. Ultimately the instrument was scrapped.

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