We’ve Talked About the First Astronomer in This Space William Herschel and his sister Caroline, both made a tremendous contribution to cataloging objects in the night sky around the end of the eighteenth century. But the family ties with the stars didn’t end with the sky-map siblings.
In turn, William’s son, Ciro John Herschel became globally famous as a chemist, physicist and mathematician. At first he was reluctant to fall into his father’s shadow by devoting much time to astronomy, but in his early 20s he joined his father in the pursuit of several double-stars. At the age of 24 he built his own 20-foot-long telescope in the same workshop that his father and Caroline had used (William and Caroline cast their own metal mirrors, a whole variety of highly reflective alloys in the process). series, using a small furnace built right in the middle of their own house – I skipped that part earlier, but it’s a good story too).
By the 1830s, the younger Herschel was the world’s best-known astronomer, and a noted world traveler, scholar of languages, and “natural historian” who wrote on dozens of subjects. He was also a celebrity, constantly being asked to make an appearance or speech, which made Herschel very uncomfortable.
In November of 1833, Herschel and his wife traveled to South Africa. There he built a new 21′ telescope of his own design in the suburbs of Cape Town and began observing objects that were inaccessible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere. He also worked with his wife Margaret, a talented artist, to produce a beautiful collection of drawings and drawings of plants found in the area of her new observatory.
With all that background, it wasn’t terribly surprising to American readers when they saw Herschel’s name on the front page of New York Sun Newspaper August 25, 1835. For most people at the time, Herschel was not an astronomer, he was Astronomers- Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, all rolled into one.
But even with Herschel’s name right behind it, its subject Sunday The article was certainly shocking: Herschel, the article said, life was discovered on the moon, And not just life, but a civilization.
over the course of six days, Sunday Readers were treated to an explanation of how Herschel’s latest telescope, operating in clear air from the hills outside Cape Town, allowed the astronomer to see details of the Moon’s surface with incredible fidelity. This included observing a herd of creatures that looked like a single-horned cross between a bison and a unicorn, large shuffling bipeds that resembled beavers and shared those rodents’ habit of building rough structures, and a variety of vegetation that clinged to the steep walls of the lunar crater. ,
The most exciting news came when readers were introduced to a race of bat-winged humanoids capable of flying in the Moon’s relatively weak gravity, who built homes and grand temples out of pale lunar rock, giving them giant sapphires. Decorated with crystals. Herschel’s observations were reportedly so good that he was able to make some significant progress toward determining the behavior and even religion of these lunar beings. He also gave them a scientific name, BatmanOr… The Bat Man.
All this, of course, was a hoax to increase the readership of the recently launched Sunday, Suspicious of writing imaginative articles was Edgar Allan Poe’s editor—who had not only worked with the paper, but had recently published a story from Poe that contained many of the same ideas. Only Poe’s story was explicitly written as a satirical narrative. The Genius of the Great Moon Hoax, the Thing That Gave It 1938 war of the Worlds broadcast effect, was that the author Sunday Played it straight, using enough detail of Herschel’s work and sufficient knowledge of actual astronomy, to convey the idea to a credible audience.
When he found out about this hoax, John Herschel was the first to find the whole thing hilarious. However, as the years passed, he found that when he visited America, the first thing people wanted to ask him was no astronomical discovery or scientific breakthrough. They wanted to know the latest happenings among the Bat Men of the Moon. This made Herschel tired. Fast.
Thankfully, the craters on the Moon mentioned by NASA are quite real and the temperate conditions there appear to be based on accurate data. The observed crater is estimated to be about 300′ (100 m) deep. There have been proposals that these sites could not only serve as a place where visitors to the Moon could park and base their spacecraft, but that the entire crater could be covered and protected from the wind. could be filled, thereby proving to be a vast space on the Moon where people could live in shirted arms.
If they do, they’ll want to check the stitching on a set of wings. After all, that gravity is actually quite low…