Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints.
Today’s guestbook entry is from January 15, 1909, when Herbert H. Turner made a visit.
Next to his name, Herbert Hall Turner F.R.S. (1861-1930) wrote “University Observatory, Oxford.”
H. H. Turner visited the Vatican Observatory more than once. He also signed our book on May 12, 1910 and during the first IAU General Assembly on May 9, 1922.
Director of the Radcliffe Observatory at Oxford University, he was an astronomer and a seismologist.
In seismology, he discovered deep-focus earthquakes (more than 300 km deep), which occur in subduction zones.
In astronomy, he coined the word “parsec.” (A parsec is a unit of distance for a star subtending 1 arcsecond of parallax shift due to 1AU of motion from the observer, or 3.26 light-years. The term became the center of significant unit-based controversy around the movie Star Wars, in which Han Solo claimed the Millennium Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.) Turner also played a role in the naming of Pluto.
There is a lunar crater that bears his name, as does the asteroid (1186) Turnera.