Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24: Charlotte Sitterly

Charlotte Emma Moore Sitterly
September 24, 1898 – March 3, 1990

Charlotte Moore Sitterly was an American astronomer.

Charlotte Moore was born in Ercildoun, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1920 and went on to Princeton to assist Henry Norris Russell. During this time she worked at the Princeton University Observatory and the Mt. Wilson Observatory. She worked extensively on solar spectroscopy, analyzing the spectral lines of the Sun and thereby identifying the chemical elements in the Sun. She earned a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1931 from the University of California, Berkeley on a Lick Fellowship, and then returned to Princeton.

During her second stay at Princeton, she met and married Bancroft W. Sitterly, who became a physics professor. She joined the then National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1945. Her tables of atomic spectra and energy levels, published by NBS, have remained essential references in spectroscopy for decades.

Later in her life, it became possible to launch instruments on rockets and she extended her work to the ultraviolet spectral lines.

Sitterly was given the Annie J. Cannon Award (1937), the William F. Meggers Award of the Optical Society of America (1972) and the Bruce Medal (1990).

The asteroid 2110 Moore-Sitterly is named in her honor.

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