Hevelius, Johan

German astronomer

Born: Danzig, January 28, 1611

Died: Danzig, January 28, 1687



As a young man, Hevelius toured Europe to obtain an education and when he returned to Danzig at the age of thirty, he established an astronomical observatory. He concentrated on the moon, studying the features through a succession of more and more powerful telescopes.

He was responsible for naming the mountain ranges of the moon, publishing an atlas of the moons surface called Selenographia, in 1647. He titled the features systematically, using names taken from the geography of earth, in line with the view from the time of Aristotle that the moon was but a smaller earth.

The relatively dark flat areas he called seas(maria, in Latin). These names have been kept, even though it is known that they are really dry stretches of dust. He also named the craters of the moon, but these names have not been kept.

In 1644, he made out the phases of Mercury, as Galileo had discovered the phases of Venus, a generation before.

Other than his work on the moon, Hevelius is best known for two large volumes on comets. He listed a vast quantity of information and discovered four new comets. In 1679, Hevelius entertained a young Englishman called Halley, who was destined to solve the cometary puzzle a generation later.

Hevelius also prepared a star catalogue of about fifteen hundred stars which was as accurate as the one prepared by Tycho Brahe.

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