Time Era

Historic time period: 1801–1861

Exploring the Sky

Maria (Mar-AYE-ah) Mitchell was America’s first woman professional astronomer. She was the first American woman to discover a new comet, and won a gold medal from the king of Denmark as an award for her discovery. After Maria became famous she continued to work as an astronomer, and also taught astronomy to younger women at Vassar College. She used a telescope that is now part of the collection of the National Museum of American History. Maria not only helped her students at Vassar College, but brought attention to other American scientists, schools for girls, and the women’s rights movement.

Maria's Comet is a historical fiction book written by Deborah Hopkinson. The story imagines how Maria's curiosity about the stars developed while she was a young girl and the role her family played in her interest in astronomy. You can learn more about Maria Mitchell and explore the sky for yourself using the fun and easy-to-follow reading guide and related activities on this page.

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Read This Book

You can learn more about astronomy in these books. Click on the book titles below for more information, or visit our complete bibliography.

Maria's Comet book cover

Featured Book

Maria's Comet

by Deborah Hopkinson

Maria's Comet. Material from Maria's Comet by Deborah Hopkinson. copyright c 2003 by Deborah Hopkinson. Used by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


  • See the Stars

    See the Stars

    Take a Trip

    Explore the night sky for yourself with a trip outside, to the local planetarium, or a nearby telescope.

    Download the PDF »
  • From the Internet to Outer Space

    From the Internet to Outer Space

    Use Technology

    Take the 1800's astronomer's challenge! Examine pictures of the outer space and try to describe them using words and your own drawings.

    Download the PDF »
  • Constellation Maker

    Constellation Maker

    Play and Create

    Imagine a constellation celebrating a famous American woman, like Maria Mitchell. Then make it with needle and thread or paper.

    Download the PDF »
  • Telescopes and Observatories

    Telescopes and Observatories

    Learn from Objects

    Take a close look at two telescopes at the Museum and the U.S. Naval Observatory.

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    Watch the video »

    Download a transcript of the video»

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