Antonia Caetana de Paiva Pereira Maury
(1866-1952)

 

US expert in stellar spectroscopy who specialized in the detection of binary stars. She also formulated a classification system to categorize the appearance of spectral lines.

Maury was born in Cold Spring-on-Hudson, New York, and educated at Vassar. She became an assistant at the Harvard College Observatory, under the direction of Edward Pickering, even before she graduated in 1887. Later she lectured in astronomy in various US cities, and taught privately. In 1908 she returned to Harvard to study the complex spectrum of Beta Lyrae.
Having assisted Pickering in establishing that the star Mizar (Zeta Ursae Majoris) is a binary star, with two distinct spectra, Maury was the first to calculate the 104-day period of this star. In 1889, she discovered a second such star, Beta Aurigae, and established that it has a period of only four days.
Studying the spectra of bright stars, Maury found three major divisions among spectra, depending upon the width and distinctness of the spectral lines. In 1896 she published her new classification scheme for spectral lines, based on the examination of nearly 5,000 photographs and covering nearly 700 bright stars in the northern sky.


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