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Summary Article: Carrington, Richard Christopher
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English astronomer. By studying sunspots, he established the Sun's axis and rotation. He was the first to record the observation of a solar flare in 1859.

Life Carrington was born in London and educated at Cambridge, where his interest in astronomy was awakened by James Challis. He was an astronomical observer for three years at Durham University, and was thereafter a business executive and an amateur astronomer. In 1853 he set up his own observatory at Redhill, Surrey; in 1865 he moved to Churt, near Farnham, Surrey, where he built another observatory. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society 1860.

Sunspots At Redhill he observed the Sun systematically 1853–61, and was able to show that the period of rotation of the Sun as deduced from sunspots varied with the latitude. In 1859 he observed an eruption on the Sun accompanied by a simultaneous disturbance of the magnetic needle, the first time anyone had noted a direct terrestrial effect arising from a solar event.

Sunspot activity manifests itself in an 11-year cycle, and Carrington observed them for seven years, plotting their positions and movements by a method of his own devising. The principal results of this extended work were, first, to determine the position of the Sun's axis and, second, to show that the Sun's rotation is differential, that is, that it does not rotate as a solid body, but turns faster at the equator than at the poles. Carrington also derived a useful expression for the rotation of a spot in terms of heliographical latitude.

Published works Carrington's Catalogue of 3,735 Circumpolar Stars 1857 was so highly regarded that it was printed by the Admiralty at public expense. An extensive account of all the sunspot observations, Observations of the Spots on the Sun, was published 1863.

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