BornPeyre, (Hautes-Alpes), France, 24 December 1761
DiedFlorence, (Italy), 14 October 1831
Jean-Louis Pons was the world’s most successful visual discoverer of comets. Born into a poor family, Pons did not leave his mark on the astronomical community until 1801, when he logged his first discovery of a comet on 11 July. Pons’s discovery (c/1801 N1), which he shared with Charles Messier, proved to be Messier’s last. During his lifetime, Pons discovered or codiscovered a total of 37 comets. Of these, 26 are credited to his name.
In 1789, Pons gained a post as concierge at the Observatory of Marseilles and received instruction on the telescope from the astronomers. He was a fast learner and soon was allowed to observe with all the instruments. His favorite telescope was one with a 3° field of view. (This suggests a magnification around 15×.) Pons was known to possess an extraordinary ability to remember the star fields he had observed and thus to recognize changes within them.
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