Monday, February 25, 2013

18th-Century Astronomer's Legacy Visible in Southern Night Sky

Fisheye view of the Southern Sky with constellations.


For every great name in astronomy — people like Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Nicolaus Copernicus — there are others who are not so well known, but who still managed to leave their mark. One of these did so by mapping out star patterns in the sky still recognized today, hundreds of years later.

Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762) is considered a pioneer in astronomy. Between 1751 and 1754, he traveled from his native France to South Africa to survey the skies invisible from his homeland. He was stationed at the Cape of Good Hope, where he catalogued the positions of 9,766 southern stars in just 11 months.

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