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On this day in 2004 – March 2nd – the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Rosetta spacecraft.

Rosetta would travel for ten years and billions of miles in order to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, accompany it as it moved through the inner Solar System past the Sun, and also deploy a lander. The mission ended with the spacecraft landing on the comet and continuing to orbit with it.

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that's a lot of miles.

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On this day in 1923 – March 4th – Sir Patrick Moore, English amateur astronomer, writer and broadcaster, was born in Pinner, Middlesex.

He was a prolific author, but was probably best known as the enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenter of the BBC TV program The Sky at Night, which he began in 1957. Although Sir Patrick died in 2012, the program goes on and is the world's longest-running television series.

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On this day in 1979 – March 4th – Jupiter's rings were discovered in images from the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

The rings are dark and made up mainly of dust, so had not been seen from Earth.

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On this day in 1512 – March 5th – Gerardus Mercator was born in Rupelmonde, Kruibeke in what is now Belgium.

Mercator was a German-Flemish cartographer, geographer and cosmographer. He created the 1569 world map based on a new projection that represented sailing courses of constant bearing as straight lines - an innovation that is still employed in nautical charts.

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On this day in 2005 – March 5th – the European Space Agency (ESA) officially inaugurated its first deep space ground station.

The New Norcia facility in Western Australia was the first, but it's since been joined by stations in Spain and Argentina. Deep space tracking stations are essential for missions such as Rosetta and Mars Express.

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On this day in 1787 – March 6th – Joseph Fraunhofer was born in Straubing, Germany.

Fraunhofer was an optician who was known for the quality of his optical glass and excellent telescope objectives. His name is still known today for his discovery of the dark absorption lines - known as Fraunhofer lines - in the Sun's spectrum.

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On this day in 1937 – March 6th – Valentina Tereshkova was born in Bol'shoe Maslennikovo, Russia.

She was first woman in space, a Soviet cosmonaut who spent three days orbiting the Earth in Vostok 6.

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On this day in 1792 – March 7th – polymath John Herschel was born in Slough, Berkshire, England.

Son of the discoverer of Uranus, John Herschel was one of the 19th century's most distinguished individuals. He was a brilliant mathematician, chemist and astronomer, as well as an accomplished artist, author, musician and linguist.

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On this day in 1831 – March 7th – King William IV signed a Royal Charter for the Astronomical Society of London. It was then renamed as the Royal Astronomical Society.

William IV also agreed to be the Society's patron; every subsequent British monarch has followed suit.

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