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Famous Astronomers: Charles Messier & More

In this article, you will discover the contributions to astronomy that have come from the likes of Charles Messier, Edward Charles Pickering, and Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

Charles Messier (1730 , 1817): This Frenchman is responsible for discovering 19 comets in his lifetime. Out of those discoveries , 13 of them were original and six are listed as independent co-discoveries. He is also responsible for compiling a well-known catalog of deep-sky objects (like nebulae and star clusters). These entities would later become known as “Messier objects.” He created the catalogue in hopes to assist comet hunters and other people interested in astronomical changes of the world in being able to tell the difference between permanent and temporary objects found in the sky.

Messier came from a big family and resided in the Lorraine region of France. He was the 10th out of 12 children although many of them didn’t live very long. Six of his siblings died rather young and in 1741 , messier lost his father. The first time Messier cultivated an interest in astronomy was after he spotted a six-tailed comet in 1744. He would also have the pleasure of sighting an annular solar eclipse that was visible about his hometown in 1748.

In 1751, he went to work for Joseph Nicolas Delisle , an astronomer of the French Navy. Delisle taught Messier how to keep careful records of all that he spied. The first documented observation associated with Messier is of the Mercury transit that took place on May 6th, 1753. His accomplishments later earned him a place in the Royal Society in 1764, as well as an elected position in the French Academy of Sciences in 1770.

Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736 ,1813): Lagrange was an Italian Frenchman who developed fresh techniques for analyzing mechanics and also created theoretical contributions to astronomy. He made strides in making lunar motion a much easier topic to swallow. Planets in connection with cometary orbits were also something that Lagrange studied. He would also pave the way for the discovery of the Trojan group of asteroids that were found at positions he established. The Lagrange points were named after the man who found a solution to a 3-body problem by showcasing the possibility of using two points.

Over his lifetime, Lagrange accomplished a lot, as before the age of 20 , he became a professor of geometry at the royal artillery school in Turin. As he entered his mid-twenties, he was seen as one of the best mathematicians (of his time) because of his finding that he put into papers regarding wave propagation and the maxima and minima of curves. One of his greatest works is called “Mecanique Analytique” (Analytical Mechanics). Other accomplishments include becoming a senator and a count under the First French Empire. At his passing, he was buried in the Pantheon.

Edward Charles Pickering (1846 ,1919): Pickering is best known for his discovery of the first spectroscopic binary star (which was named Mizar). As an American astronomer and physicist, Pickering is also responsible for finding out that the proper motions of stars were not as random as previous thinkers concluded. Instead, he proved that stars could be separated into two streams that moved about in opposite directions. This is what he called “the rotation of our galaxy.”