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Space: women needn’t apply?

August 2012: Debra Elmegreen challenges astronomy’s anti-female legacy.
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Let’s do something different and tackle a sociologically odd topic. It’s the shameful fog that blanketed our beloved astronomy for centuries — the exclusion of women.

Take Maria Mitchell (1818–1889), America’s first female professional astronomer. If you’re ever on the enchanted island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts, you can visit her old house and observatory, where she became instantly famous in 1847 by discovering a comet. It’s hard not to love this long-gone woman who wrote, “Standing under the canopy of stars ... you could scarcely do a petty deed.”

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