Mesmerising moment astronomy enthusiast catches Nibiru planet
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However, a historically high honour is the Astronomer Royal role. The role is awarded to a highly renowned astronomer and dates all the way back to June 1675.
Astronomer Royal’s don’t have any specific duties but are appointed for occasional consultation on scientific matters.
Nowadays, however, the role is mainly honorary, though the current Astronomer Royal is still expected to be available if Her Majesty requests a consultation.
Since 1995, astrophysicist Martin Rees holds the position.
The role has lead to many scientific discoveries. Astronomer Royal Edmund Halley is famous for predicting the return of the comet now known as Halley’s Comet.
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The first person to receive the honour was John Flamsteed after King Charles II created the position the same time he founded the Greenwich Royal Observatory.
Charles II paid Flamsteed an annual salary of £100 and currently whoever holds the position is paid exactly the same just under 350 years later.
£100 in 1675 translates to £20,646.85 in 2020, according to the Bank of England inflation calculator.
At the time the role was known as King’s Astronomical Observator.
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King instructed Flamsteed when appointing him as the first of a long line of Astronomer Royals: “Forthwith to apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so-much desired longitude of places, for the perfecting the art of navigation.”
The Astronomer Royal was also the director of the observatory from 1675 when Charles II founded it until 1972.
King Charles II appointed Flamsteed to “draw up a map of the heavens with enough accuracy to be reliable for navigation”, according to the Royal Museums Greenwich.
Self-taught astronomer Flamsteed recorded one of the earliest sightings of Uranus, though at the time it was mistaken for a star.
Flamsteed also increased the accuracy of existing stellar catalogues which greatly aided navigation at the time.
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