Northern Ireland news

Royal Observatory honours Strabane woman with new telescope

Annie Maunder was born in Strabane in 1868
Seamus McKinney

THE Royal Observatory at Greenwich has named its new telescope after a Co Tyrone astronomer.

The Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT) has been installed at the 300-year-old observatory to recommence study of the stars after a break of 60 years due to light pollution.

The daughter of a Presbyterian minister in Strabane, Annie Maunder (née Russell) was born in 1868 and is considered one of the unacknowledged giants of astronomy.

Following education at Strabane girls' Presbyterian school and the Ladies' Collegiate School in Belfast, she won a scholarship to Cambridge where she qualified top of her class in mathematics.

However, she was unable to take her degree as the rules of the day prevented women from receiving a BA.

She gained work at the Royal Observatory in London where she met her future husband, Walter Maunder.

Although forced under civil service rules to resign on her marriage, she continued to work on solar photography – pioneering work on sunspots - but published her findings with her husband.

In 1916, Mrs Maunder became one of the first women elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Earlier this year, Derry City and Strabane District Council voted to honour her to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth and a blue plaque has also been erected in her memory in Strabane.

An exhibition dedicated to Mrs Maunder will also be unveiled on the ground floor of the Royal Observatory pavilion where the telescope is housed.

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