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Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/24/2011 12:26 AM

Can anyone confirm, or correct me on the importance of Professor Maria Mitchell's contribution to Astronomy. I am wrapping up a University Research Document, and this never heard of astronomer has given me quite an academically enlightening adventure.

This quest began with a search for an astronomy video in our university library. An easy search (is usually not good enough for my needs), and another video on Sister Juana Inez De La Cruz close by provided a break from weekend homework at home.

The astronomy video was great for making me drowsy enough for a nap. I watch school related videos on the ceiling via a projector. The movie about Sister Juana De La Cruz mentioned some astronomy, amongst her other talents, so I watched the entire movie without losing one blink of an eye.

One link to some serious journals led me to a recent Italian thesis paper about famous women astronomers. Scanning the list for possible candidates would eventually take me to a local library, where my roster of female astronomers who appeared to have contributed something produced several results.

Maria Mitchell seemed to capture my attention, especially since I know nothing about what comets have to offer the world of science. At this point, my biggest complaint is , "Why don't they mention this woman in the public schools, and how come I never heard about her until now?" Famous women in U.S. History? Betsy Ross, good boy, next in the back, Jane Addams attagirl, Pochahontas alright someone has been watching the History Channel.

Okay, I've read some books, visited a local planetarium museum, and scanned the internet for some journal text, some photos, and here I am still wondering what all of the commotion was all about.

Does a comet discovery provide astronomy with one more traceable link to the charting or the constant expansion of our galaxy. Would the time it takes to appear, disappear, and reappear once more give astronomy a clue as to the size of our universe, galaxy, or solar system.

Finally, since this mass of ice/CO 2 is traveling in a set pattern, friction, and some loss of the comet's mass will erode, especially when traveling close to the Sun where the comet's tail is blown outwards by solar winds. This tilt a whirl type of action also exposes the main body of the comet, thereby creating a slight melting effect upon the body of the comet.

Eventually, provided that this comet is not captured by some planet's gravity force, or struck by another celestial object, the entire comet should become nothing more than a memory, and a melted mass of icy matter.

I am going to include Maria Mitchell's ability to calibrate the chronometer's of sailing ships, when she was a young teenager, as part of her contribution to astronomy. I can only speculate that gathering samples of a comet may give us clues about what matter or forms of possible life conditions might exist in the distant regions of our universe.

Thank you for your time and audience

Respectfully Jose Zamora

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#1

Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 5:15 AM

I hadn't heard before of Maria Mitchell, but her story and successes are inspiring. Thank you for sharing this. I think stories like this should become better known. Women have made significant contributions to science, engineering, and business--but are too often unsung.

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#2

Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 8:15 AM

There have been a number of women who've made important contributions to Astronomy. Among them are Caroline Herschel, Annie Cannon, Cecelia Payne Gaposhkin, Carolyn Shoemaker and Margaret Burbidge. They are often mentioned in introductory Astronomy courses.

While the average layman may have heard of Einstein, Newton, Galileo and Kepler, most have not heard of Feynman, Dirac, Shroedinger, Gauss, or Bardeen, (just to mention a few names). There are hundreds of men and women who have made hugely important contributions to the physical sciences who the average person on the street does not know.

But the average person on the street could tell you about Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

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#3
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 5:15 PM

"But the average person on the street could tell you about Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber."

Seriously dumb question, but who the hell are those people?

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#4
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 5:59 PM

Ignorance is bliss when 'tis folly to be wise (or words to that effect)

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#5
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 8:42 PM

JohnDG, so true.

AH, You're better off not knowing, but you could go to YouTube and search for Lady Gaga "Poker Face". There are lots of funny parodies of it, too, if you want to waste some time.

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#6
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/24/2011 8:50 PM

I'm feeling very small right now. :-)

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#10
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What's "Bieber"? Just a little levity folks!

03/24/2011 11:28 PM

If anyone wants to know a little about Maria Mitchell...Go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Mitchell. BTW... it seems Ozzie Ozborn wants to know what a "Bieber" is as well! (Response to question: "I dunno, kinda looks like a girl"). I know we have all seen this one! LOL

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#11
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/25/2011 1:08 AM

The word "Genius" is often used lightly, but in the case of the two you mention it's apt.

They are multi faceted artists whose name and work is destined to live on through the centuries.

This post may contain traces of irony.

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#15
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/27/2011 11:55 AM

Those are people? Really?

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#12
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/25/2011 10:50 AM

Thanks for the information, I will share this with some classmates who may not have made a selection for their homework assignment yet. It doesn't matter to me who wins the Nobel Prize, or carries the title of "Know it all club", President.

I remember serving in the Air Force, and there were many instances when one of our crew members (a young lady) would complete a job, only to have someone else take it apart for the purpose of doing it over on the night shift.

Although my question was "Why does a comet mean so much to astronomy?" your reply was very much appreciated and something which I did not know about.

J Zamora

Chicago

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#14
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Re: Mr Zamora

03/25/2011 12:28 PM

Don't forget Henrietta Swan Leavitt!

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#7

Re: Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/24/2011 9:46 PM

Shroedinger (Schrödinger's)...Surely everyone knows about the cat! If he brings up that cat again Im gonna shoot it!

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Re: Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/24/2011 10:13 PM

If you fire the bullet through a double slit, will that increase your probability of hitting the superposition of live-dead cat?

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#9
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Re: Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/24/2011 10:27 PM

Cats are crafty (just ask Del ).

It'd prob'ly find a cozy fringey spot where the bullets destructively interfere with themselves. Then it would sit and smirk.

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#13

Re: Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/25/2011 12:26 PM

We astro-folk are always delighted when somebody "discovers" one of our lesser-known heroes! Maria Mitchell is an inspirational figure, to be sure. Among her other accomplishments, she was the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer. That took courage and perseverance!

About comets: As far as I know, they have no link to anything outside the Solar System. One cool thing is that they come from the farthest edges of the Solar System, so they provide an opportunity to learn more about places we otherwise can't study. It is assumed that their material has not changed much since the formation of the Solar System, so they are important for theories of planet formation. Discovering a comet requires an excellent knowledge of the sky and many, many hours of diligent observation. Even with today's advanced equipment, discovering a comet is something to brag about!

You're correct that comets can be ephemeral. Some fall into the Sun, some hit Jupiter, some are gravitationally flung so far out we never see them again, and still others gradually lose their ice and become mere relics of their former selves. This gives extra urgency to the study of each new comet, as there may never be another chance to study it.

Gathering samples from a comet has become a possibility only in very recent times! We do not expect to learn anything about the distant universe from these samples, but we do expect to learn a great deal about the outer Solar System. We may also be able to refine our theories of planetary formation and perhaps get a better idea about where Earth's oceans come from. This last issue has direct impact on our search for other water-bearing planets that might harbor life.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your research paper.

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#16
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Re: Maria Mitchell's Contribution to Astronomy

03/27/2011 1:09 PM

Here is one more of lesser known astronomers. This is male though. http://www.indiaclub.com/shop/SearchResults.asp?ProdStock=12653 bioramani

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