Richard Christopher Carrington

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Richard Carrington

Richard Christopher Carrington (born May 26, 1826 in Chelsea , † November 27, 1875 in Redhill , Surrey , England ) was an English astronomer . He made important contributions to solar research.


Carrington was born on May 26, 1826 in the Chelsea borough of London. His father was a successful brewer in Brentford , London. From 1844 to 1848 Carrington studied at Trinity College , Cambridge . His father wanted Carrington to pursue a career as a priest. But Carrington developed a penchant for mechanics. James Challis , director of the Cambridge Observatory, inspired him to study astronomy.

Carrington's Observatory at Redhill, between 1852 and 1857

With the support of Challis, Carrington found a job as an assistant to Temple Chevallier (1794–1873) in Durham in 1849 , but he stayed there for only three years. The inadequate equipment of the observatory in Durham led Carrington to build his observatory in Redhill in 1852 with his own funds . From 1854 he researched circumpolar stars there . A star catalog published by him in 1857 , the Redhill Catalog , was an important contemporary contribution to astrometry , as was his investigations into parabolic comet orbits . From his observatory he devoted himself to observing the sun , and his work contributed significantly to solar research .

The death of his father in 1858 set Carrington back. The brewery he inherited did not give him enough time to do his research. Added to this was the departure of his esteemed assistant George Harvey Simmonds, whom he could not replace. Carrington applied for several academic positions, but received rejections from both Oxford University and Cambridge University . The very influential George Biddell Airy , court astronomer of the English royal family and director of the Greenwich Observatory , played a decisive role. Airy was annoyed by what he saw as the hasty, impetuous manner of Carrington and feared for the reputation of his observatory and that of the Royal Astronomical Society , which he saw attacked. Airy exerted his influence and, as a result, the posts fell to Robert Main and John Couch Adams , both of whom were Airy related. Carrington wrote incendiary letters out of anger that he was denied the job at Oxford, which cost him some sympathy.

On July 17, 1861, Carrington sold his observatory and astronomical instruments and moved to Isleworth in west London. He remained active until 1865 in the Royal Astronomical Society , in which he was admitted as early as 1851 and whose honorary secretary he was 1857-1861. In 1865 Carrington became seriously ill, possibly suffering a stroke . He sold the Brentford Brewery and moved to Churt, near Farnham (Surrey) around 1870 , where he had a new observatory built. But he no longer made significant research contributions.

Carrington had married in August 1869 and the marriage was difficult. Severely injured, his wife survived a lover's knife attack. In the autumn of 1875, under partly unexplained circumstances, first his wife died in quick succession, then Carrington at the age of 49.

Solar research

Samuel Heinrich Schwabe's discovery of the connection between the period of sunspots and geomagnetism inspired him to research the sun . From 1853 to 1861, Carrington systematically recorded his observations of sunspots. In 1858, Carrington reported his observation that new sunspots appear at the beginning of an 11-year spot cycle at about 30 ° heliographic latitude and that this latitude gradually approaches the solar equator over the course of a period. This phenomenon was examined and described in more detail by Gustav Spörer and known as Spörer's Law .

During the solar storm of 1859 Carrington observed in detail the solar flares that caused it . The solar white light event of September 1, 1859 (so-called "Carrington event"), which is occasionally named after him, was, however, also independently observed by Richard Hodgson.

Carrington discovered the differential rotation of the sun and developed a formula for it as a function of the heliographic latitude.

The prime meridian of the heliographic coordinate system is called the Carrington prime meridian according to Carrington . It was introduced by Carrington on November 9, 1853 as the meridian which at that time coincided with the central meridian of the sun. On this day, the counting of the solar rotations , the so-called Carrington rotations , which have a duration of about 27 days, begins . Carrington rotation 2213 began on January 16, 2019 at 8:54 p.m. CET .


Most important works

  • Redhill Catalog . London (1857) ( )
  • Observations of the spots on the sun . London (1963) ( )


  • John North: Vieweg's History of Astronomy and Cosmology . Springer, Berlin; Edition: 1 (January 10, 2001), ISBN 978-3-540-41585-5
  • Stephen Clark: The Sun Kings: the unexpected tragedy of Richard Carrington and the tale of how Modern Astronomy began. Princeton University Press (2007), 978-0691141268

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Fellows deceased: - Carrington. RC In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . tape 36 , p. 137 ( ).
  2. a b c d e f g h i Edward W. Cliver, Norman C. Keer: Richard Christopher Carrington: Briefly Among the Great Scientists of His Time . In: Solar Physics . 2012, doi : 10.1007 / s11207-012-0034-5 .
  3. a b Arnab Rai Choudhuri: Nature's Third Cycle: A Story of sunspots . Oxford University Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-19-967475-6 , pp. 2-4, 28-32 , doi : 10.1093 / acprof: oso / 9780199674756.001.0001 .
  4. ^ Richard Christopher Carrington: On the distribution of the solar spots in latitudes since the beginning of the year 1854, with a map . In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . tape 19 , no. 1 , November 1958, p. 1-3 ( harvard, edu ).
  5. Hans-Ulrich Keller: Kosmos Himmelsjahr 2019: Sun, moon and stars in the course of the year . Kosmos, 2018, ISBN 978-3-440-16392-4 , pp. 286 , Table of the beginning of the synodic solar rotation according to Carrington 2019 .