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Social Studies Biographies
|edHelper's suggested reading level:||grades 9 to 12|
|Flesch-Kincaid grade level:||8.53|
By Colleen Messina
1 On the night of August 1, 1786, Caroline Herschel climbed up into the observatory and saw something weird. She loved helping her brother, William, with his astronomical observations, but she had no idea what the strange object was. She wrote that she saw "a star out of focus though the rest were perfectly distinct." The next night, she saw the object again and excitedly wrote, "The object is a Comet!" The following morning, headlines proclaimed the discovery of the "Lady's Comet." No woman had ever discovered a comet before. Caroline became an overnight sensation.
2 Caroline's road to fame as an astronomer was long and hard. She was born on March 16, 1750, in Hanover, Germany. Her mother never wanted Caroline to go to school, so she kept her busy with sweeping, scouring, and cooking. Caroline's only relief from constant work was when she had her violin lessons or when she went stargazing with her father. Isaac Herschel was a bandmaster of the Hanoverian Guards. He was poor, but he gave his children music lessons and a fascination for the heavens.
3 One night in 1759, when Caroline was nine years old, her father took her outside to look at the stars. In the deep, black sky, they saw a glowing, kite-shaped body. It was Halley's Comet! Her father explained that Halley's Comet came every seventy-five years and that she would be an old lady when she saw it again. Seeing the comet inspired her to do something special with her life.
4 Things got much harder for Caroline when her father died in 1767. Her widowed mother felt that 17-year-old Caroline should stay home and help take care of the household. However, Caroline had other ideas. Her brother William, who lived in England as an organist, invited Caroline to come and work for him as a singer and musical assistant. Her mother, who was distraught at losing her daughter's household services, said that Caroline could go on one condition: Caroline had to prove useful to her brother, or else she must return to Germany in two years.
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