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Famous Astronomers: Carl Seyfert & More

Who discovered the first radio telescope? Who is behind the naming of the Seyfert’s Sextet? What German optician played an important role in astronomy although his heart belonged to another field of study? All these questions and more are answered in this article that takes a look at well-known astronomers throughout history.

Carl Seyfert (1911 , 1960)

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Seyfert is best known for his role in discovering the first active galaxy, which is now part of a group referred to as the Seyfert galaxies. In a research paper penned in 1943 , his coverage of (“high-excitation line emission” regarding the center of spiral galaxies) gained attention. The paper dealt with the concept of galaxies with bright nuclei that emitted light with emission line spectra that exhibited characteristically broader emission lines.

Other contributions attributed to Seyfert include the publishing of an assortment of papers pertaining to the subject of astronomy. Some of the topics discussed include stellar and galactic information. He had a knack for also observing methods and using instruments. A collection of galaxies was also named after him , Seyfert’s Sextet. He also has a crater on the moon that was named in his honor. Another notable naming includes the 24-inch telescope residing at Dyer Observatory.

Grote Reber (1911 , 2002)

While you hear a lot about the astronomers who travel up into space, you probably never encountered information on the first radio astronomer. Reber not only built the first radio telescope, but also claimed this title in history. He played an important role in mimicking the steps of Karl Jansky, as he was the first to survey the sky using radio frequencies. In his lifetime, he would earn a host of distinctions, including the Bruce Medal in 1962 and the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1983.

An interesting tidbit of information on Reber is that when he passed away (which was just two days shy of his 91st birthday), his ashes were spread across 24 major radio observatories about the world, such as Jodrell Bank, Dwingeloo Radio Observatory, and the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787 , 1826)

Who would have known that this German optician would play a role in astronomy when he discovered lines in the Sun’s spectrum (dark absorption lines) that were later given the name of ‘Fraunhofer lines.’ He also made great optical glasses, which allowed him to create decent achromatic telescope objectives. In 1814, he would also invent the spectroscope, which allowed him to uncover nearly 600 dark lines situated in the solar spectrum. In later years, these lines would be called ‘atomic absorption lines’ through the continued work of Bunsen and Kirchhoff during the mid-1800s.

Other accomplishments associated with Fraunhofer include the invention of diffraction grating, where the enhanced measurement of light wavelengths was made possible. He also found that the spectra of Sirius and other first-magnitude stars were much different from that of the sun , creating strides in stellar spectroscopy. Overall , the man was good at making achievement in the world of astronomy, but his true passion was always in the optical department.