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Session 38 - HAD IV: Demographics, Alignments & Outreach.
Display session, Thursday, January 08
Exhibit Hall,

[38.01] Maria Mitchell's Comet - a Challenge Once More?

P. B. Boyce (AAS and Maria Mitchell Obs.), A. P. Graham (U. of Virginia and Maria Mitchell Obs.), V. Strelnitski (Maria Mitchell Obs.)

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the discovery of a fateful comet by Maria Mitchell (1 October 1847). This was one of the first telescopic comets ever discovered and the first one discovered by a woman. It brought Maria Mitchell the gold medal from the King of Denmark, the first appointment of a woman as professor of Astronomy (at Vassar College) and the fame to be the first (and for ninty years - the only) woman - member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It gave Maria Mitchell an unusually favorable opportunity to struggle for the rights of American women in science.

We restore the circumstances of this discovery, and present the results of a modern re-calculation of the orbit of the comet, including its present position in the sky and its ephemeris for the next 50 years.

The comet is 32^m now and will slowly decrease in brightness. Our ability to detect faint objects has improved dramatically over the 150 years since the comet was discovered. By extrapolation, we show that modern technology may catch up with the declining brightness of the comet by the middle of the next century. Another challenge for astronomers!

Program listing for Thursday