The Mystery and Wonder of Astronomy – True Structure of Spiral Galaxies first determined visually (video)

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With this video we introduce a new program feature at Astronomy for Change: “The Mystery and Wonder of Astronomy”.

The true structure of spiral galaxies, as yet undetermined into the first quarter of the 20th century with Edwin Hubble, Harlow Shapley, Heber Curtis and Fritz Zwicky making great strides in determining the true nature and distance to these “Spiral Nebulae”, was first observed visually in 1845 by William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse using his 1.8 meter (72”) speculum-mirror telescope in Parsonstown, County Westmeath, Ireland.

These objects were often referred to as “nebulae” or “spiral nebulae” in the 19th century and were terms used to describe non-stellar objects before their true nature was determined. Observing and subsequently rendering it in a drawing, the spiral structure of Messier-51, the Whirlpool galaxy, is clearly depicted as are some of the more luminous O and B class stars in the galaxy’s spiral arms. It should be emphasized that this was done visually at the dawn of the photographic era.

Dr. Daly discusses this first observation of Messier-51, the Great Whirlpool Galaxy, and how observation of these mysterious “Spiral Nebulae”, spurred on by imagination, played a key role in determining their true nature.

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Imagination is more important than knowledge

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