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Category Archives: Historical

Whipple’s Moonwatch: Amateur Astronomers in the Space Age

October 4, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellite “Sputnik,” in 1957. The world was astonished by the news that the Soviet Union had successfully put a satellite into Earth’s orbit for the first time in history. Sputnik had a profound impact on international…

Cecilia and Sergei: American Astronomers

Many great minds and personalities have graced this Observatory, but few so illustrious as those of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and her husband Sergei. Together, and separately, they made great impacts on how astronomers see the universe. Cecilia began questioning the make-up of the stars, finding in her graduate research that hydrogen…

Illustrating Astronomy: E.L. Trouvelot at HCO

Celestial photography often stands as the legacy of the Harvard College Observatory in its early years. But its directors still recognized the value of old-fashioned observations of a human eye in real time. To assist their work at the telescope, they tended to hire assistants trained in astronomy and skilled…

Annie Jump Cannon: Account of the Total Eclipse

[Background Note: Annie Jump Cannon traveled to Virginia Beach, VA to see the total solar eclipse of May 28, 1900. She wrote this journal shortly after observation. The journal is now part of the Papers of Annie Jump Cannon, 1863-1978 collection at the Harvard University Archives (HUGFP 125). This transcription of…

Eclipse Expeditions: From HCO and SAO out into the world

The eclipse of 21 August 2017 offers us the chance to witness a rare and awesome spectacle. The aesthetics of such an event have always excited the casual observer, but astronomers and other scientists often sacrifice the immediate visual beauty for their observations, by which interpretations they can illuminate a…

The First Computer: Williamina Fleming and the Horsehead Nebula

Working by day with glass-plate photographs of the night sky, the Harvard Computers of the late 1800s studied the stars in search of cosmic secrets. First among them was Williamina Fleming, an immigrant maid from Scotland. Her career in astronomy is highlighted by discoveries, stellar classification, and a work ethic…

Follow Phaedra on Social Media

We’ve created Twitter and Instagram accounts to keep you updated on Project Phaedra! Follow to learn more about our journey processing this collection, when new materials are available for transcription, and whatever neat highlights we find along the way. We’ve just sent our first batch of notebooks off to the…

PHaEDRA will be at the Smithsonian Digitization Fair!

PHAEDRA has been accepted to the Smithsonian Digitization Fair! At our exhibit table, Wolbach librarians will be available to share information and developments in our efforts to digitize and transcribe astronomical logbooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The theme of this year’s Digitization Fair is “Bracing for Impact: Digitizing…

Interested in Project PHAEDRA?

The history the HCO is coming together before our eyes. With the many different catalogues of the PHAEDRA items that were composed over the past 40 years, we have been hard at work to find any books missing from our collection. Already, we recovered one orphan notebook from Widener Library’s holdings at Harvard…

Updates on Project PHAEDRA

Over the past few months, our library staff has been working hard to unravel the mysteries of Project PHAEDRA. Consisting of over 100 boxes recently rediscovered that contain Harvard College Observatory’s notebooks, journals, and observations from the nineteenth century, this material has the potential to reveal aspects of the Observatory’s…