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On this day in 2004 – November 20th – NASA's Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission was launched. (It's now called the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.)

The mission, with international participation, was designed to help solve the mystery of gamma-ray bursts.


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On this day in 1977 – November 23rd – Meteosat-1 was launched by EUMETSAT (a European intergovernmental agency).

Meteosat-1 was the first of the first generation of Meteosat satellites, which have provided continuous and reliable meteorological observations from space to a large user community.


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On this day in 1816 – November 25th – American lawyer, astronomer and pioneering astrophotographer Lewis Morris Rutherfurd was born in Morrisania, New York.

After practicing law for a number of years, Rutherfurd gave it up for astronomy. He was a pioneer of astrophotography, inventing the first telescope designed specifically for astrophotography. With the telescope he made high quality images of the Sun, Moon and planets as well as star clusters and stars down to around fifth magnitude. Rutherfurd was an associate of the Royal Astronomical Society, and one of the original members of the National Academy of Sciences.


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On this day in 1965 – November 26th – France became the third nation to launch its own satellite.

The satellite Astérix was launched from a site in French Algeria.


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On this day in 2011 – November 26th – the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity was launched.

Curiosity is still exploring Mars.


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On this day in 1701 – November 27th – Swedish astronomer, mathematician and physicist Anders Celsius was born in Uppsala.

Best known for his 'degrees Celsius' temperature scale, he was also professor of astronomy at Uppsala University, and he created the Celsius Observatory in Uppsala.


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On this day in 1885 – November 27th – the first known photograph of a meteor was taken.

Austro-Hungarian astronomer Ladislaus Weinek caught a 7mm-long trail at his Prague observing station during the Andromedid meteor shower. (Since the 19th century the Andromedids have faded so much that they're no longer generally visible to the naked eye.)


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On this day in 1971 – November 27th – the Soviet Mars 2 probe became the first man-made object to reach the surface of Mars.

However it wasn't the first successful mission, because the landing system failed and the lander was lost.


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On this day in 1964 – November 28th – NASA's Mariner 4 was launched.

The spacecraft made the first successful flyby of the planet Mars, returning the first pictures of the Martian surface. They were the first images of another planet ever returned from deep space.


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On this day in 1967 – November 28th – at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge, England, the first pulsar was observed by Jocelyn Bell and Antony Hewish.

A pulsar is a rapidly rotating neutron star, but at the time no one knew this. A neutron star was still a theoretical construct whose existence wasn't generally accepted by astronomers.


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