Friday, December 18, 2009

December 18: Gottfried Kirch

Gottfried Kirch
December 18, 1639 — July 25, 1710

Gottfried Kirch was a German astronomer. He first worked as a calendar-maker in Saxonia and Franconia. He began to learn astronomy in Jena, and studied under Hevelius in Danzig. In Danzig in 1667, Kirch published calendars and built several telescopes and instruments.

In 1686, Kirch went to Leipzig. There, he observed the great comet of 1686, together with Christoph Arnold. At Leipzig, Kirch also met his second wife, Maria Winckelmann (1670-1720), who had learned astronomy from Arnold. In 1688, he invented and charted the now obsolete constellation Sceptrum Brandenburgicum, the Brandenburg Scepter. Later, in 1699, he observed comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle but this observation was not recognized until later analysis by Joachim Schubart.

In 1700, Kirch was appointed by Frederick I of Prussia as the first astronomer of the Prussian Royal Society of Sciences.

Kirch studied the double star Mizar, and discovered both the Wild Duck Cluster (Messier 11) (1681) and Globular Cluster M5 (May 5, 1702). He also discovered the variability of the Mira variable Chi Cygni in 1686.

The Lunar crater Kirch and the asteroid 6841 Gottfriedkirch are named in his honor.

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