Institute of Astronomy

Spectra from the Stars - a success!

Published on 21/03/2011 

The IoA Library mounted a special exhibition for the Open Day on Saturday 26th March.  The exhibition, entitled, Spectra from the Stars, was about Sir William and Lady Huggins, a couple of victorian amateur astronomers who made fundamental advances in astronomy from their home observatory.  The exhibition attracted over 390 people, the highest number we have recorded yet for a one day IoA Library exhibition.

William Huggins (1824-1910) was an established amateur astronomer with an observatory at his home in Tulse Hill, London.  He pioneered the use of spectroscopy in astronomy, breaking star-light into spectra (like star-rainbows), by combining the pattern with spectra from materials in a laboratory, he could identify the elements of which stars are made.  This led him to a number of breakthroughs  in astronomy, he could show that stars have a similar make-up to the Sun and that some nebulas are dust and gas and not stars.  When he married Margaret Lindsay Murray (1848-1915) she brought her skills in photography to the paretnership and devised ways of photographing the spectra.

When they retired from active observing their telescopes and some other equipment came to Cambridge.  The exhibition will mix the poignant remains of their actual equipment, with original books and photographs.  Including the object glass of their 15-inch telescope and original plates from their atlas of stellar spectra.

Page last updated: 31 March 2011 at 10:33