Friday, June 04, 2010

Astronomers Solve Walt Whitman Meteor Mystery

The Meteor of 1860 By Frederic Church
By Jayme Blaschke

     In his landmark collection Leaves of Grass, famed poet Walt Whitman wrote of a "strange huge meteor-procession" in such vivid detail that scholars have debated the possible inspiration for decades.

Now, a team of astronomers from Texas State University-San Marcos has applied its unique brand of forensic astronomy to the question, rediscovering one of the most famous celestial events of Whitman's day--one that inspired both Whitman and famed landscape painter Frederic Church--yet became inexplicably forgotten by modern times.

Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, English professor Marilynn S. Olson and Honors Program student Ava G. Pope publish their findings in the July 2010 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine, on newsstands now.

"This is the 150th anniversary of the event that inspired both Whitman and Church," Donald Olson said. "It was an Earth-grazing meteor procession."

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