Maria Mitchell (1818–89), considered America’s first professional astronomer, grew up on Nantucket, looking at the stars. She used to scan the sky from the roof of the Pacific National Bank, where her father was a cashier. While in her 20s, she was scanning the skies one day with a telescope when she found an object not in her charts. She had discovered a comet. She later became a professor of astronomy at Vassar and traveled the world giving talks on her discovery. The Maria Mitchell Association on Nantucket has developed a campus of five buildings, including two observatories, developed to scientific inquiry and education. Perhaps most of interest for any member of the family is the Loines Observatory at 59 Milk St. Ext. (tel. 508/228-9273). It is open for viewing the stars July and August on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 10:30pm; September to June, it’s open 2 nights per month near to the first quarter of the moon. The Hinchman House Natural Science Museum (tel. 508/228-0898) at 7 Milk St. (at Vestal St.) houses a visitor center with science exhibits. Programming for adults and children include bird-watching, nature walks and discovery classes. A small aquarium is at 28 Washington St. and is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm.
- Frommer's Staff