On This Day In History: Great American Astronomer G. E. Hale Died – On Feb 21, 1938

The American astronomer, George Ellery Hale died on February 21, 1938.

He developed important astronomical instruments, including the Hale Telescope, a 200-inch (508-cm) reflector at the Palomar Observatory, near San Diego.

Hale not only contributed to astronomy by building four of the world’s largest telescopes, he also founded an astronomical society, started the Astrophysical Journal, and was the first person to be officially called an astrophysicist.

Hale built four observatories and helped create the new discipline of astrophysics. He is known also for his research in solar physics, particularly his discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots.

Hale became interested in astronomy at the age of 14. While attending MIT as an undergraduate, his wealthy father presented him with a spectroscopic laboratory. Hale began working on the unanswered questions connected with the nature of the solar spectrum and took up the challenge of photographing prominences outside of an eclipse.

In 1892, in the pursuit of his undergraduate thesis, Hale built a spectroheliograph, which could photograph solar features that radiated within a particular line of the sun’s spectrum.

Hale caught the public’s attention following an 1892 newspaper article which read:

Unfortunately, Hale died almost a decade before the commemoration of the Palomar telescope that bears his name.

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