Northern Ireland news

Strabane astronomer had lunar crater named in her honour

Annie Russell Maunder was born in Strabane in April 1868.
Seamus McKinney

THE life of a Strabane-born astronomer who has a lunar crater named in her honour is to be celebrated on the 150th anniversary of her birth.

The Maunder Crater on the moon was named after Annie Russell Maunder and her husband, Edward in tribute to their work in establishing a link between cosmic events and the earth’s climate.

Born in Strabane in 1868, Mrs Maunder was the daughter of the town’s Presbyterian minister, William Andrew Russell and his wife, Hessy.

Following her education at Strabane Girls’ Presbyterian School and the Ladies’ Collegiate school in Belfast, Mrs Maunder won a scholarship to Cambridge University. While qualifying top of her class in mathematics, she was not awarded her degree because the rules of the day prevent women from receiving the BA degree.

Despite this, Mrs Maunder worked at the Greenwich Royal Observatory where she met her future husband, Walter Maunder. She was forced to give up her civil servant position following her marriage but continued to work on solar photography with her husband, specialising on sunspots.

With her husband, she published widely and became one of the first women elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916. She was an expert in eclipse photography and established the now-accepted link between sunspot activity and the earth’s climate.

Her many achievements are now to be celebrated in a series of events being organised by Derry City and Strabane District council. The move, proposed by councillor, Karina Carlin received unanimous backing.

Mrs Carlin proposed the council work with schools and the Armagh Planetarium and Observatory to draw up a series of events to mark the anniversary in April 2018.

The Sinn Fein councillor said: “Her work in terms of science and knowledge of the cosmos and knowledge of how that relates to weather patterns and other phenomena on earth have been ground-breaking.”

DUP councillor, Thomas Kerrigan said the anniversary was a proud one for Strabane while Ulster Unionist, Derek Hussey said Mrs Maunder was a “tremendous” example to young women.

Mayor, Maolíosa McHugh also revealed plans to unveil a blue plaque.

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