Friday, February 27, 2009

February 27: Bernard Lyot

Bernard Ferdinand Lyot
February 27, 1897 – April 2, 1952

Bernard Lyot was a French astronomer. His interest in astronomy started in 1914. He acquired a 4-inch (100 mm) telescope and soon upgraded to a 6-inch (150 mm). From graduation in 1918 until 1929, he worked as a demonstrator at the Ecole Polytechnique. He studied engineering, physics, and chemistry at the University of Paris, and from 1920 until his death he worked for the Meudon Observatory

In 1930 he earned the title of Joint Astronomer of the Observatory. After gaining the title, he earned a reputation of being an expert of polarized and monochromatic light. Throughout the 1930s, he labored to perfect the coronagraph, which he invented to observe the corona without having to wait for a solar eclipse. In 1938, he showed a movie of the corona in action to the International Astronomical Union

In 1939, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences. He became Chief Astronomer at the Meudon Observatory in 1943 and received the Bruce Medal in 1947. Tragically, he suffered a heart attack while returning from an eclipse expedition in Sudan and died on 2 April 1952, at the age of 55.

Lyot's observations and achievements on Pic du Midi include: determination that lunar soil behaves like volanic dust, that Mars has sandstorms, improvment of his coronagraph, made motion pictures of solar prominences and the corona and found spectral lines in the corona.

Lyot was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1939, the Bruce Medal in 1947 and the Henry Draper Medal in 1951. The Lunar crater Lyot, the Lyot crater on Mars and the minor planet 2452 Lyot are named in his honor.

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