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Caroline Herschel’s pioneering astronomy is brought into the spotlight

Herschel’s discovery in the 18th century of 560 missing stars is the focus of new audio-visual work from photographic artist Lynda Laird



Space



9 November 2022

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Lynda Laird/DSS/Space Telescope Science Institute

THESE striking images of stars are a modern representation of work done in the 18th century by Caroline Herschel. Herschel, who is considered to be the first professional female astronomer, discovered eight comets and 14 nebulae. She also revised the catalogue of stars by England’s first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, presenting the Royal Society in 1798 with a catalogue of 560 stars that had been omitted.

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Lynda Laird/DSS/Space Telescope Science Institute

In 2020, photographic artist Lynda Laird began a residency at the Royal Astronomical Society, reacting to Herschel’s life and work. Laird created 560 photographic glass plates of the missing stars Herschel spotted, featuring them in her new audio-visual installation An Imperfect Account of a Comet.

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Lynda Laird/DSS/Space Telescope Science Institute

Laird says she intends her work to represent “all the women whose groundbreaking knowledge and wisdom has been overlooked, undervalued, and ignored throughout history”.

Pictured are some of these plates, showing stars located in the constellations of Gemini (top image), Monoceros (middle image) and Cygnus (pictured above).

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The Royal Astronomical Society

 

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The Royal Astronomical Society

Shown top right is volume two of Flamsteed’s Historiae Coelestis, which Herschel used in her studies and also corrected; top left is a page of her observational journal; and pictured above is her copy of a map of the constellation Cetus, from Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis.

An Imperfect Account of a Comet runs at Jodrell Bank in the UK from 18 November 2022 until 16 April 2023.

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