Of Leviathans, Spirals, and Fire-Mists

  • William Sheehan
  • Christopher J. Conselice


Between them the Herschels, father and son, bestrode the astronomical world like colossi. For half a century, they commanded the most powerful telescopes in existence. Th e greatest of all was the 40-foot, with its 48-inch mirror, at Slough. But here William overreached. A glorious failure, difficult, even dangerous, to use, it was never deployed for the study of the nebulae for which it was designed. But it inspired an even more colossal instrument, the “Leviathan,” at Parsonstown (now Birr), Ireland. Built by the wealthiest “Grand Amateur” of his day, William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, its mirror, 72 inches in diameter, would not be surpassed until the 20th century. Th e achievement was all the more remarkable, given that at the time Rosse built the telescope, Ireland was an economic basket-case of its day.


Large Telescope Heritage Foundation Faint Star Great Tube Paradise Lost 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Sheehan
    • 1
  • Christopher J. Conselice
    • 2
  1. 1.WillmarUSA
  2. 2.School of Physics and Astronomy University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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