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Dean Howarth as Tycho Brahe at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The Natural Philosopher portrays a number of astronomers from the 1600’s to the 1800’s. Most notable is his portrayal of the flamboyant Danish stargazer with a gold nose, Tycho Brahe, whose work helped establish modern astronomy at a time before the use of telescopes.

Other characters include Edmond Halley (of comet fame); Sir William Herschel, discoverer of the planet Uranus (see video below); Philadelphia’s David Rittenhouse (early America’s most notable astronomer); and Andrew Ellicott (who used astronomical techniques to survey and map the boundaries of the Federal City in the late 1790’s).

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Performances by any of these characters include replica instruments, telescopes, maps, and models used by astronomers to measure the Heavens. The history of astronomy is full of interesting episodes such as the Trial of Galileo, Halley’s Comet, Celestial Navigation, and the Transit of Venus. Evening stargazing with replica telescopes is also possible thanks to the Natural Philosopher’s collection of optical instruments such as lenses, mirrors, and a camera obscura.

The video below of Sir William Herschel's visit with the National Capital Astronomers in February 2016 is provided courtesy of the Astronomers. The videographer was Rupert Chappelle.