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On this day in 1670 – February 25th – German astronomer Maria Margarethe Kirch (née Winckelmann) was born in Panitzsch near Leipzig.

Maria made extensive observations and published accounts of them. She was the first woman now known to have discovered a comet. However, her husband – a well known astronomer – was given the credit.

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On this day in 1786 – February 26th – François Arago was born at Estagel near Perpignan in France.

This extraordinary man was a prominent astronomer, mathematician and physicist, as well as an enlightened politician. He aided in the project of surveying the Paris meridian, and later served as director of the Paris Observatory for over twenty years.

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On this day in 1842 – February 26th – Camille Flammarion, French astronomer and author, was born in Val-de-Meuse.

Flammarion produced over fifty books, including popular books on astronomy, and also some early science fiction novels.

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On this day in 1897 – February 27th – French astronomer Bernard Lyot was born in Paris.

Bernard Lyot's work brought him major international awards. His most important contributions to astronomy were in solar observing, especially the invention of the coronagraph which makes it possible to observe the Sun's corona without waiting for a total eclipse.

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On this day in 2007 – February 28th – the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Jupiter en route to Pluto.

New Horizons made over 700 observations of the Jovian system, but the main reason for the flyby was to carry out a gravity assist maneuver. That boosted the speed of the spacecraft to get it to Pluto five years earlier than it would have otherwise.

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On this day in 1927 – March 1st – American astronomer George Abell was born in Los Angeles, California.

Abell's catalogue of galaxy clusters from the Palomar Sky Survey remains an important piece of work. But in addition to being an active professional astronomer, he was a teacher, administrator, writer and science popularizer.

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On this day in 1965 – March 1st – the first foundation piles were laid for ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) at Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

ESTEC is the European Space Agency's main technology development and test centre for spacecraft and space technology.

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On this day in 1966 – March 1st – the Soviet probe Venera 3 landed on Venus, the first Earthly craft to land on another planet.

Unfortunately, when the probe entered the atmosphere, ground control lost contact with the orbiting spacecraft. Therefore any data it may have collected couldn't be transmitted.

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On this day in 1982 – March 1st – the descent stage of Soviet probe Venera 13 landed on Venus.

It was the first Venusian probe to transmit color pictures from the surface of the planet. Designed to survive for half an hour, it transmitted for 127 minutes.

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On this day in 1972 – March 2nd – NASA's Pioneer 10 was launched.

Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to cross the Asteroid Belt, and it carried out the first mission to Jupiter. It's now over 135 AU from Earth, heading out of the Solar System in the direction of the constellation Taurus.

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