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#931969 01/01/20 12:56 PM
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On this day in 1801 – January 1st – Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres.

Ceres was the first object discovered in what's now known as the asteroid belt. It was at first considered a planet, then an asteroid, and is now classed as a dwarf planet.

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On this day in 1925 - January 1st - Edward Hubble read to the American Astronomical Society what would be a ground-breaking paper.

He showed that the Andromeda "nebula" wasn't an object in the Milky Way, but a galaxy in its own right. Here is picture of the glass plate on which Hubble discovered a Cepheid variable - marked VAR! - in the Andromeda galaxy. From this he determined that it was too far away to be located in our own galaxy.

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On this day in 1959 - January 2nd - the Soviet Union's Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to leave the Earth's gravitational field.

Luna 1 passed to within 6000 km of the Moon, and ended up in orbit around the Sun.

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On this day in 1920 - January 2nd - American author and scientist Isaac Asimov was born.

Asimov was a chemistry professor, but also a prolific writer on many subjects. He's best remembered for his works of science fiction and of popular science, including astronomy.

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On this day in 2004 - January 3rd - NASA's rover Spirit landed on Mars.

Along with the Opportunity rover, the rovers' mission was designed to last for just over three months. Spirit was active until 2010.

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On this day in 1643 - January 4th - Isaac Newton was born.

Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642, according to the Julian Calendar then in use. When nearly a century later England adopted the Gregorian calendar, the equivalent date was ten days later.

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On this day in 1797 - January 4th - German astronomer Wilhelm Beer was born.

Beer was an amateur astronomer, who with Johannes Heinrich Maedler, published the first map of the Moon (Mappa Salenographica). They also made a map of Mars and calculated the planet's rotation period to within 0.1 second of today's figure.


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On this day in 1892 - January 5th - the first successful photograph was taken of an aurora.

Early cameras couldn't catch the dim light of an aurora, and long exposures didn't capture the movement. German physicist Martin Brendel and a fellow scientist, on an expedition in northern Norway, took the first successful image, and revolutionized the study of the northern lights.

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On this day in 2005 - January 5th - Mike Brown's team at Palomar Observatory discovered Eris

The discovery of this distant object that originally appeared to be bigger than Pluto ignited the debate about the definition of a planet. For a time, NASA referred to Eris as the "10th planet", but in the end, both Eris and Pluto became dwarf planets.

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On this day in 1998 - January 6th - NASA's Lunar Prospector was launched.

The mission was designed to investigate the Moon from low polar orbit. This would include mapping the surface composition, locating lunar resources, and measuring magnetic and gravity fields.

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