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Jan Oort
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Astronomer
    (April 28, 1900-November 5, 1992)
    Born in Franeker, Netherlands
    Pioneer in radio astronomy
    Discovered the galactic halo, a group of stars orbiting the Milky Way, but outside the main disc (1924)
    Determined that the Milky Way rotates, with stars near the galactic center rotating faster than those in the outer regions (1927)
    Suggested that the solar system is surrounded by a cloud of comets (later named the Oort Cloud)
    President of the International Astronomical Union (1958-61)
    Although best known for the Oort Cloud, he considered his research on comets as a sideline from his main work.
    The existence of a cloud of comets located beyond Pluto had earlier been theorized by Ernst Öpik (1932), so the cloud is sometimes called the Öpik-Oort Cloud.
    He initially suggested that the comets of the Oort Cloud had formed in the Asteroid Belt and been ejected outwards by the gravitational influence of <14005>.
    This is considered unlikely due to their differing compositions: the asteroids are rocks, while the comets are mostly ice. (Current theory is that the Oort Cloud comets originated in the ‘scattered disc,’ a part of the Kuiper Belt.)
    He was married to Johanna Maria Graadt von Roggen for 65 years.
    He resigned from the University of Leiden during the Nazi occupation to protest the expulsion of Jewish professors.
    He was sufficiently expert in art to have been appointed chair of the pictorial arts committee of the Leiden Academical Arts Centre.
    The European Space Agency called him ‘one of the greatest astronomers of the 20th century.’
    Life magazine included him on a list of the world’s 100 most famous people (1955).

Credit: C. Fishel


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