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Topic: Sky watching
Sky watching
The profession of scientist is a relatively modern one. Until recently, scientific research tended to be carried out by enthusiastic amateurs and no where was this more so than in astronomy. These amateurs, be they royalty or refugee, are united across history by their singular obsession with sky watching and, as this topic will demonstrate, it is their efforts that have done so much to improve our understanding of our place in the universe. Working without any real hope of reward or recognition, these obsessive individuals have given us a more accurate calendar, improved our understanding of the nature of the universe and even discovered a new planet. Sky watching continues to be a popular pastime and will remain so for as long as humanity retains a sense of curiosity and wonder.
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Topic section: The maharaja’s marble masterpiece
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Concerned about existing astronomical tables, the Maharaja Sawa Jai Singh II built a large observatory at Jaipur in India in 1724 and India has maintained the Asian tradition of watching the heavens with Astrosat, India’s first major astronomical satellite, planned for 2005–6.  > more

Topic section: A star of astronomy
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Patrick Moore is famous as the presenter of the long-running The Sky at Night programme. With his permanently raised eyebrow and evident enthusiasm for the night sky, Moore has become the face of popular astronomy in Britain.  > more

Topic section: The man who found a planet
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A refugee musician from Hanover, William Herschel, settled in Slough and discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. He then became the most famous astronomer of his age.  > more

Topic section: The big eye of Parsonstown
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The Earl of Rosse constructed what was then the world’s largest reflecting telescope in 1846 at his family seat of Parsonstown (now Birr) in Ireland. The original Rosse mirror is on display in the Science Museum.  > more
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