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Science: Nova Herculis; Swaseya

2 minute read

Lurking in the upper right corner of the constellation Hercules last month was a nameless 14th-magnitude star far below the limit of naked-eye visibility. Fortnight ago a British amateur saw it in a violent eruption which, because of the star’s distance, must have occurred about 1,500 years ago. It was throwing off two shells of tremendously hot gas at 1,000,000 m.p.h. By last week it had jumped 13 magnitudes to the first, acquired a name, Nova Herculis 1934. Its radiation had increased 200,000 times; it was among the twelve brightest stars in the sky. Directors Vesto Melvin Slipher of Lowell Ob servatory (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Harlow Shapley of Harvard Observatory obtained remarkable spectra, said the star might be the most important stellar outburst ever witnessed.

On his 88th birthday last week Ambrose Swasey appropriately received a planet for a present. A great benefactor of U. S. engineering (he has given $750,000 to the Engineering Foundation), white-bearded, bright-eyed Engineer Swasey has been manufacturing topnotch astronomical equipment since 1880. His firm, Warner & Swasey Co. of Cleveland, made the 36-inch Lick Telescope, the Naval Observatory’s 26-incher, Canada’s Dominion Astronomical Observatory’s 72-incher, Argentine National Observatory’s 60-incher, the mounting and housing for the 80-incher which will be the world’s second largest when it is installed in McDonald Observatory in southwestern Texas.

Asteroids are small planets. Recently Director Otto Struve of Yerkes Observatory discovered a fair-sized asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. On Engineer Swasey’s birthday last week. Astronomer Struve announced he had christened his find “Swaseya.”

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