Today in 1750, the birthday of an astronomer who definitely made her mark on the sky: Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet.
If you’re an astronomy buff, you may recognize the name Herschel.
William Herschel, Caroline’s brother, is the scientist known for discovering the planet Uranus in the 1780s.
The Herschels were musical; William had been a music teacher and organist, Caroline had performed as a soprano.
They both later turned to science, but back then women weren’t hired as astronomers, so Caroline had to become her brother’s assistant.
She would polish the mirrors of his telescope and write down the observations he called out as he studied the night sky.
Both Herschels helped build the New General Catalogue, or NGC, a reference system for objects in the sky that’s still used today.
Caroline Herschel used the telescope herself, discovering galaxies and nebulae.
And in August 1786, she noticed and tracked an object moving through the sky.
She wrote to other astronomers so they could study it too.
It was a comet, and quickly it became known as “Caroline’s Comet” – though when the royal family asked for a briefing on Caroline’s Comet, William ended up speaking to them.
Nonetheless, Caroline Herschel became a key figure in astronomy in her own right, and that comet was only the start.
She would discover seven more comets, and the King would eventually start paying her 50 pounds a year.
Technically still her brother’s assistant, but the first woman to receive a professional scientist’s salary in England.
She would later receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for her work, and she’s had an asteroid and a lunar crater named in her honor.
No doubt she was proud of her accomplishments.
Caroline Herschel wrote this epitaph for her own tombstone: “The eyes of her who is glorified here below turned to the starry heavens.”
Residents of Pooler, Georgia, are down a local landmark – for now.
Next to a road there’s normally a giant mailbox, 16 feet long, 8 feet tall, and painted to look like a black and white cow.
The owner says he had to take it down because the road is going to be widened.
But he says he’s going to use the down time to do a little mailbox maintenance and then put it back up.
Do you have to put extra large letters in there?
Caroline Herschel (NASA)
Portrait via Wikicommons