STEM Education: Annie Maunder: Pioneer Astronomer


STEM Education: Annie Maunder: Pioneer Astronomer


Annie Scott Dill Maunder FRAS was an Irish-British astronomer, who recorded the first evidence of the movement of sunspot emergence from the poles toward the equator over the Sun’s 11-year cycle. She captured the longest coronial streamer (a ray like structure coming out from the sun) on record.

Annie was regarded as an expert in eclipse photography and was asked to take charge of photography of the Canadian Government’s eclipse expedition to Labrador.

Annie was the daughter of the Rev William Andrew Russell, minister of 2nd Strabane Presbyterian Church, Co Tyrone, Ireland. She attended the Ladies’ Collegiate School, Belfast, and Girton College Cambridge, where she attained honors in the mathematical tripos (degree) examinations in 1889 and was Girton’s top mathematician of her year.

She began working at the Astronomer Royal in 1891. She was assigned to work in the solar department under its chief (Edward) Walter Maunder, photographing the sun daily through a telescope, weather permitting; then developing the photographs and examining the images with a measuring micrometer.

Sunspots were of particular interest to the department. Russell witnessed a giant spot in July 1892, and the resulting magnetic storm – a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic field caused by material emanating from the sun in a manner not fully understood at the time – was recorded on the observatory’s instruments.

Annie joined the British Astronomical Association (BAA), and in 1894 was made editor of its journal, a role she carried out for 35 years.

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