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On this day in 2005 – March 31st – the dwarf planet Makemake was discovered by Michael E. Brown, Chadwick A. Trujillo and David L. Rabinowitz.

Makemake derives its name from a creator deity in the mythology of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.

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On this day in 1596 – March 31st – René Descartes was born at La Haye, Touraine.

The French philosopher-mathematician was a key figure in the development of 17th century cosmology.

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On this day in 1997 – April 1st – Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to the Sun.

The comet was dubbed the Great Comet of 1997 and was probably the most widely observed comet of the 20th century.

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On this day in 1845 – April 2nd – French physicists Leon Foucault and Louis Fizeau took the first successful photograph of the Sun.

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On this day in 1867 – April 3rd – German astronomer Wilhelm Tempel, observing in Marseilles, discovered Comet 9P/Tempel 1.

in 2005 the comet was the target of NASA's Deep Impact probe.

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On this day in 1966 – April 3rd – the Soviet spacecraft Luna 10 was inserted into orbit around the Moon.

It was the first spacecraft to go into orbit around the Moon, and the first human-made object to orbit any body beyond the Earth.

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On this day in 2014 – April 3rd – ESA satellite Sentinel 1-A was launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, the first in the Copernicus EU programme.

Copernicus is the world's largest Earth observation programme, monitoring many aspects of the environment.

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On this day in 1809 – April 4th – American astronomer and mathematician Benjamin Peirce was born in Salem, Massachusetts.

He graduated from Harvard University where he also obtained his M.A.. Peirce was appointed Harvard’s first Perkins Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy. He played a key role in the development of the Harvard College Observatory and carried out a great deal of important observational work, including helping to determine the orbital path of the newly discovered planet Neptune.

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On this day in 1914 – April 4th – Czech astronomer Zdeněk Kopal was born in Litomyšl, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).

In 1938 he studied in England at Cambridge under Arthur Eddington, and later that year accepted a teaching post at Harvard College Observatory. In order to ensure good quality maps of the Moon for the Apollo program, Kopal organised a USAF-funded programme designed to map the Moon from the Earth using high resolution imagery. He was head of astronomy at the University of Manchester for 30 years and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Astrophysics and Space Science from its foundation in 1968 until his death in 1993.

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On this day in 1973 – April 5th – NASA launched Pioneer 11.

Pioneer 11 was the first spacecraft to encounter Saturn and it followed Pioneer 10 into the far reaches of the Solar System.

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