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On this day in 2011 – February 14th – NASA's Stardust-NExT spacecraft made a close flyby of comet Tempel 1.

It was NASA's second visit to Tempel 1, because the Deep Impact mission had visited it in 2005, sending an impactor in order to learn about the comet's interior.


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On this day in 1564 – February 15th – Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy.

Galileo was one of the first to use a telescope to observe the heavens. He's known for his astronomical discoveries, his experimental physics, his astronomical discoveries, and, of course, his getting in trouble with the Church.


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On this day in 1973 – February 15th – Pioneer 10 became the first ever spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt.

Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972, and is is now nearly four times further away from the Sun than Pluto is.


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On this day in 2013 – February 15th – a meteor explosion occurred over Chelyabinsk in Russia causing around 1500 injuries.

The meteoroid was about 20 meters across with a mass of 12,000-13,000 metric tonnes. Fortunately, the explosion occurred high in the atmosphere and the atmosphere absorbed much of the energy. However the shock waves caused a lot of damage, and many of the injuries were from flying glass.


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It was all over the papers at the time.

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On this day in 1948 – February 16th – a Gerard Kuiper discovered Miranda, a moon of Uranus.


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On this day in 1723 – February 17th – German cartographer and astronomer Tobias Mayer was born.

Mayer's chart of the full moon was the standard for half a century, but he's best known for his lunar tables. The accuracy of the lunar positions (and the theory behind them) enhanced the lunar distance method for determining longitude at sea. It enabled navigators to find longitude accurately to half a degree.


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On this day in 1996 – February 17th – NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft was launched.

The spacecraft did a fly-by of asteroid Mathilde and then studied asteroid Eros from orbit.


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On this day in 2018 – February 17th – it was the 5000th sol for NASA's Mars rover Opportunity on the red planet.

Opportunity's mission was originally planned for 90 sols. A sol is a Martian day, and it's just over 39.5 minutes longer than an Earth day. A severe planet-wide dust storm in the summer would finally end Opportunity's amazing mission.


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On this day in 1677 – February 18th – Jacques Cassini was born at the Paris Observatory.

He was the son of the director of the observatory Jean Dominique Cassini, with whom he made numerous astronomical observations. Eventually, he took over his father's duties as head of the Paris Observatory and continued the astronomical work.


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