Monthly Archives: April 2013

George Bishop’s Observatory

Came across this a while I was researching comets and such last year, “George Bishop’s Observatory.” I especially like that sled-like recliner on rails, for watching the stars.  That’s exactly what I would want for my observatory:


Here’s the Wikipedia entry on George Bishop’s Observatory, in case you’re curious:

George Bishop’s Observatory was an astronomical observatory erected in 1836 by the astronomer George Bishop near his residence at the South Villa of Regent’s Park, London. It was equipped with a 7-inch (180 mm) Dollond refractor. It is assigned number 969 in the International Astronomical Union’s list of observatories.

The Reverend William Rutter Dawes conducted his noted investigations of double stars at the observatory from 1839 to 1844; John Russell Hind began his career there in October of the following year. From the time that Karl Ludwig Hencke’s detection of Astræa, 8 Dec. 1845, showed a prospect of success in the search for new planets, the resources of Bishop’s observatory were turned in that direction, and with conspicuous results. Between 1847 and 1854 Hind discovered ten small planets at the observatory, and Albert Marth one. Other notable astronomers to use the observatory included Eduard Vogel, Charles George Talmage, and Norman Robert Pogson.

The observatory closed when Bishop died in 1861, and in 1863 the instruments and dome were moved to the residence of George Bishop, junior, at Meadowbank, Twickenham, where a new observatory was constructed to follow the same system of work. Twickenham Observatory closed in 1877 and the instruments were given to the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte in Italy.Regent’s College London now stands on the site of the observatory.


And here’s this from the Wikipedia entry on George Bishop, Astronomer:

In 1836 Bishop was able to realise a long-held intention by erecting an astronomical observatory near his residence at the South Villa of Regent’s Park, on which he spared no expense in order to ensure that it would be of practical use. “I am determined,” he said when choosing its site, “that this observatory shall do something.”

A testimonial was awarded to Bishop by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1848 “for the foundation of an observatory leading to various astronomical discoveries” and presented to him with a warmly commendatory address by Sir John Herschel. . . .

After a long period of physical but not mental illness, Bishop died on 14 June 1861 at the age of 76.


I like his quote, so much so that I’ll repeat it here:

“I am determined,” he said when choosing its site, “that this observatory shall do something.”

Vintage Book Covers

A nice cover from an old book about astronomy. You can see hundreds more of vintage book covers on the Facebook page Perfectly Bound: The Dying Arts of Book Design and Binding.

Stars at a Glance

ISON Update!

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped new photos of Comet ISON (“The Comet of the Century”) a few days ago. It’s still set to make a big appearance around Thanksgiving. Here’s a photo:


And here’s a nifty animation of Comet ISON’s projected trajectory around the Sun, seen from different angles. Don’t worry, it only looks like the comet is colliding with Mars and the Earth.

Fermi Paradox

Nice short piece on the Fermi Paradox in NYT, here. Named after physicist Enrico Fermi, who in 1950 pointed out that if there are billions of suns in our galaxy, and if even a tiny fraction of those suns have Earth-like planets, and if only a tiny fraction of those planets could develop human-like intelligent life, well, then our galaxy ought to be teeming with life, right? Fermi asks: Where is everybody?

Like, for example, this Orion Slave Girl:


Mr. Moonlight

And just for fun, and because it may be the worst song The Beatles ever recorded, there’s this:

Galileo’s Moons

Galileo Galilei’s drawings of the Moon, as observed through his telescope. Previously, it was thought that the Moon was a perfectly smooth sphere.

Galileo's Moon Drawings

From Signor Galileo’s 1610 treatise “Sidereus Nuncius” (“Starry Messenger”). Thanks again to Stephan Ellcock on Facebook for the image.

Starry Ceiling

Starry Ceiling

Giotto. The ceiling of the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni), aka the Arena Chapel. Padua, Veneto, Italy.  (detail)

From Stephen Ellcock.

New Publication Date

Flash! Flash! Flash!



THE NIGHT OF THE COMET’s publication date has been moved up a week, to July 30th. This is so the book can be included in a Barnes and Noble summer promotion–which is good news. Updated book tour to follow.

NASA Wants to Lasso an Asteroid, Tow it Home

This news last week, as reported in, among other publications, Florida Today:
Plans are in the works for astronauts to capture an asteroid, tow it into orbit around the Moon, and then visit it for an asteroid-walk.

Here’s an artist’s rendition of the lassoing procedure:

lassoing an asteroid

Which of course puts one (or at least me) in mind of this, from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life:

George Lassos the Moon

Comet Siding Spring

Comet Siding Spring (named after the observatory in Australia from where it was first spotted) is on track to have a close encounter with Mars in October 2014. Here’s what it’ll look like if you’re a Martian:


And here’s more info on Comet Siding Spring, in case you’re curious: