At a time when Man is preparing to return to the Moon thanks to NASA’s Artemis mission, the only satellite of planet Earth is the theme of the nights of the stars this summer 2022, notably celebrated in the Aude in Caunes-Minervois from August 2 to 5. The opportunity to recall that a famous Carcassonnais, like 166 other French people, gave his name to a lunar crater: Paul Sabatier (1854-1941).
It is Jean-Michel Faidit, author of a thesis on the astronomers of Languedoc, having worked on the rehabilitation of the observatories
Montpellier, who challenged the editorial staff of our title about the presence of the Sabatier crater on the moon. This man, who lives in the Nîmes region, at the origin of the Montpellier planetarium in 1989, founding editor-in-chief of the journal Planetariums in 1995, through books and research, has built a work shared with the realization of about fifty of PowerPoint for conferences where he distributes an annual brochure The Sky in the Four Seasons.
He has already published 13 books, including These French in the Moon (Press du Midi in 2013). Craters on the Moon are named after famous people. Of some 1,500 craters thus designated, 166 are dedicated to French people. The object of this book is to present them, with their biographical note, their portrait and the photograph of their crater. Observers will find the description and lunar coordinates to locate them. This collection is accompanied by the presentation of eleven writers, proposed at the time to designate those of the hidden face revealed by space waves – at the time when it was decided to reserve the craters of the Moon for scientists -, as well than a tribute to six famous European astronomers brought to work in France.
A famous Carcassonnais therefore gave his name to one of the craters on the Moon: Paul Sabatier, chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1912. “Sabatier is known for his method of hydrogenation of organic compounds in the presence of finely divided metals for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, and for his advances in catalysis”, writes Jean-Michel Faidit. Originally from Carcassonne, he studied at the Pierre-de-Fermat high school in Toulouse. He was received at 18 at the Polytechnic School but preferred the Ecole Normale Supérieure. Agrégé in 1877, he defended his doctorate in 1880. He became a professor at the University of Bordeaux and then at Toulouse, being Dean of the Faculty of Sciences in 1905.
His most important work remains Catalysis in Organic Chemistry published in 1913. He developed Sabatier nickel, one of the first catalysts. Its crater is located at Mare Marginis (diameter 9.6 km, depth 1.63 km, year of denomination 1979).
Jean-Michel Faidit’s collection is accompanied by the presentation of eleven writers, proposed at the time to designate those of the hidden face revealed by space waves – at the time when it was decided to reserve the craters of the Moon for scientists. André-Marie Chénier (1762-1794), poet and journalist, is one of them. Born of a Greek mother and a French father, he spent his childhood in Turkey, Morocco, and a few years in Carcassonne. The crater in his name (but unofficial) is therefore located on the far side. Its diameter: 33 km.
Jean-Michel Faidit is a mathematician by training. Qualified as a Lecturer in Astronomy/Astrophysics and in the History of Science, Doctor of History of Astronomy, he emerged from oblivion and relaunched the Fête du Soleil celebrated by Flammarion and Eiffel at the Eiffel Tower and worked to revive the Observatories from Montpellier, to La Babote and the Jardin des Plantes. Coordinator of a reference work on the limits of Roche published by Vuibert, he is also the author of several recent works published by the Presses du Midi: These French in the Moon, Destination Mars, Mairan and the first theories of the aurora borealis, The Imperial Comet, Jean Jaurès and the Gard, 1914-1918: Adjutant César’s campaign diary. Celestial chronicler in the regional daily press, laureate of the Astronomical Society of France and corresponding member of the Academy of Nîmes, he shares his activity between courses, conferences and publications.
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