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There is a famous story of an experienced astronomer setting his beard on fire because he left the cap off his telescopes finder. I know it's said to be true of Galileo, but I thing it's relatively recent - i.e. 20th century. Does anyone know his name? Or can someone cite a source?

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    $\begingroup$ Few astronomers in the 20th century actually look through a telescope, but use CCDs/photographic plates instead. But why don't you ask James Screech. $\endgroup$ – pela Jul 13 '18 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Nice find @pela Oddly, this story doesn't google. An astronomer who set his beard on fire should be something that shows right up on google search and this "famous story" doesn't. Might be more myth than truth, but now I'm curious. I'd like to know the answer to this one too. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Jul 13 '18 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK Yeah, but I suspect myth though… where did you hear that story, Amoeba? $\endgroup$ – pela Jul 13 '18 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Incidents like this are rather common, unfortunately. Everything has been set on fire from beards to parkas to houses. Put the caps on, people. $\endgroup$ – Florin Andrei Jul 13 '18 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Amoeba I understand that Stack Exchange can seem a little frustrating in the beginning, but once you get used to it you may discover that some of the peculiarities of the system have evolved over time to make it more durable against the randomness of internet traffic and hecklers. In this case, you need a reputation ("score") of 50 in order to start leaving comments on other people's post. It doesn't take long, to reach 50 if you ask a few questions or post a reasonable answer. Give SE a little more time and you may really learn to enjoy it! Each SE site has a different "personality". $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 19 '18 at 1:43
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From the book Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis, Galileo might have set his beard on fire with a telescope pointed at the Sun.

And you must keep your eyes -- and your clothing -- out of the path of the projected light. It is said that Galileo set fire to his beard doing this!

In his defense, he was the first person to look at the Sun with a telescope, so you can't blame him for not knowing about the associated risks!

But this story might also be apocryphal. Many people set various things on fire with a telescope (some even doing it on purpose).

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