On this day in 1801 – January 1st – Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres.Ceres was the first object discovered in what's now known as the asteroid belt. It was at first considered a planet, then an asteroid, and is now classed as a dwarf planet.
On this day in 1925 – January 1st – Edward Hubble read to the American Astronomical Society what would be a ground-breaking paper.Hubble showed that the Andromeda "nebula" wasn't an object in the Milky Way, but a galaxy in its own right. Here is picture of the glass plate on which Hubble discovered a Cepheid variable - marked VAR! - in the Andromeda galaxy. From this he determined that it was too far away to be located in our own galaxy.
On this day in 1959 – January 2nd – the Soviet Union's Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to leave the Earth's gravitational field.
Luna 1 passed to within 6000 km of the Moon, and ended up in orbit around the Sun.
On this day in 1920 – January 2nd – American author and scientist Isaac Asimov was born.
Asimov was a chemistry professor, but also a prolific writer on many subjects. He's best remembered for his works of science fiction and of popular science, including astronomy.
Growing up, I even knew who he was.
On this day in 1871 – January 2nd – the American astronomer Anne Sewell Young was born in Bloomington, Wisconsin.
In 1899 she went to teach at Mount Holyoke College where she was appointed director of the observatory of the John Payson Williston Observatory. She remained there until her retirement. Young's primary astronomical interest was in variable stars, and she was one of the eight original members of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).
On this day in 2004 – January 3rd – NASA's rover Spirit landed on Mars.Along with the Opportunity rover, the rovers' mission was designed to last for just over three months. Spirit was active until 2010.
On this day in 1643 – January 4th – Isaac Newton was born.The great physicist and mathematician was born on Christmas Day 1642, according to the Julian Calendar then in use. Nearly a century later England adopted the Gregorian calendar, and the equivalent date is ten days later.
On this day in 1797 – January 4th – German astronomer Wilhelm Beer was born.
Beer was an amateur astronomer, who with Johannes Heinrich Maedler, published the first map of the Moon (Mappa Salenographica). They also made a map of Mars and calculated the planet's rotation period to within 0.1 second of today's figure.
On this day in 1892 – January 5th – the first successful photograph was taken of an aurora.Early cameras couldn't catch the dim light of an aurora, and long exposures didn't capture the movement. German physicist Martin Brendel and a fellow scientist, on an expedition in northern Norway, took the first successful image, and revolutionized the study of the northern lights.
On this day in 1998 – January 6th – NASA's Lunar Prospector was launched.
The mission was designed to investigate the Moon from low polar orbit. This would include mapping the surface composition, locating lunar resources, and measuring magnetic and gravity fields.
On this day in 1610 – January 7th – Galileo wrote the first letter in which he described his observations of the Moon through a telescope.
In Galileo's time, the Moon was assumed to be a perfectly smooth sphere. However Galileo saw that the surface was uneven with mountains, plains and valleys.
On this day in 1610 – January 7th – Galileo first saw three of Jupiter's moons.The three objects he saw in his telescope are now known as Callisto, Io and Europa, three of the four Galilean moons.
On this day in 1587 – January 8th – Johannes Fabricius was born.
Fabricius was a German/Frisian astronomer, eldest son of David Fabricius who was also an astronomer. In their solar observing, they discovered sunspots about the same time as, and independently of, Galileo.
On this day in 1942 – January 8th – English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was born.
For thirty years he was the Lucasian Professor at the University of Cambridge, a prestigious post once held by Isaac Newton. Hawking also wrote books on cosmology for the general public, the best known being A Brief History of Time. He was most closely associated with his work on black holes.
On this day in 1839 – January 9th – Thomas Henderson published his determination of the distance to Alpha Centauri.Henderson had actually been the first person to calculate the distance to a fixed star by using stellar parallax. However he had delayed publishing his results, and the credit for being first went elsewhere.
On this day in 1946 – January 10th – the US Army Signal Corps had the first successful echo detection of a radar signal bounced off the Moon.
It was part of the first experiment in radar astronomy, a technique used decades later to map the planet Venus.
On this day in 1787 – January 11th – William Herschel discovered the Uranian moons Oberon and Titania.It would be almost five decades after Titania and Oberon were discovered that an astronomer other than Herschel would observe them.
On this day in 1907 – January 12th – Sergei Korolev was born.Korolev was the mastermind of the Soviet space program, and a state secret referred to, if at all, as the Chief Designer.
On this day in 2005 – January 12th – NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft was launched.
Deep Impact was the first space mission to study the interior composition of a comet.
On this day in 1610 – January 13th – Galileo discovered a fourth satellite of Jupiter.
This was the moon we now know as Ganymede, the biggest moon in the Solar System.
On this day in 1804 – January 13th – Scottish astronomer and author John Pringle Nichol was born.
Nichol wrote a number of books on astronomy and was a popular lecturer. When he was made the Regius Professor of Practical Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, he did much to popularize astronomy.
On this day in 2005 – January 14th – the European Space Agency (ESA) probe Huygens landed on Saturn's moon Titan.It was the first time a spacecraft had been landed on a moon other than our own. Here is footage of the Huygens landing on Titan.
On this day in 2008 – January 14th – NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft made its first flyby of Mercury.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) was the second spacecraft to reach Mercury, the first having been Mariner 10 in 1975.
On this day in 1916 – January 14th – the Royal Astronomical Society in London, founded in 1820, finally admitted the first women to full membership in the society.
On this day in 2006 – January 15th – NASA's Stardust spacecraft completed its mission by returning its samples to Earth.
Stardust was robotic space probe whose primary mission was to collect dust samples from the coma of comet Wild 2, as well as samples of cosmic dust.
On this day in 1969 – January 16th – the first docking of two manned spacecraft occurred.
The Soviet Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 docked in space and transferred crew from one vehicle to another by a space walk.
On this day in 2015 – January 16th – the UK Space Agency announced that the remains of the probe Beagle 2 had been located on Mars.The probe had been lost on Christmas Day 2003 after successful insertion into orbit by Mars Express. It was finally identified in images from the HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
On this day in 1647 – January 17th – Elisabetha Hevelius (née Koopmann), the second wife of Johannes Hevelius, was born.She is considered to be one of the first European female astronomers, and is often called 'The mother of Moon charts'. Elisabetha helped her husband manage his observatory, and published two of his works after his death.
On this day in 2002 – January 18th – the Gemini South Observatory was dedicated.
Gemini South in Chile and Gemini North in Hawaii together constitute the Gemini Observatory. The twin telescopes provide almost complete coverage of the skies with two of the largest and most advanced optical/infrared telescopes available.
On this day in 1747 – January 19th – Johann Bode was born in Hamburg, Germany.Bode was the director of the Berlin Observatory for nearly forty years. In 1801 he published his influential star atlas Uranographia. A keen popularizer of astronomy, he also produced a smaller atlas aimed at amateur astronomers. His name also lives on in the "Titius-Bode Law".
On this day in 1851 – January 19th – Jacobus Kapteyn was born.
Kapteyn was a Dutch astronomer best known for his studies of the Milky Way. He was the first to discover evidence that galaxies rotate.
On this day in 2006 – January 19th – NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was launched.
The spacecraft made a flyby of the Plutonian system in the summer of 2015, and on New Year's Day 2019, followed it up with a flyby of the Kuiper Belt object informally called Ultima Thule, but later renamed Arrokoth.
On this day in 1930 – January 20th – Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin was born.The second man to step onto the Moon has been not only an astronaut, but also an Air Force combat pilot, aerial gunnery instructor and flight commander. His doctoral thesis at MIT was on techniques for manned orbital rendezvous.
On this day in 1573 – January 20th – German astronomer Simon Marius was born.Marius claimed he had seen Jupiter's moons before Galileo. Galileo's documentation was more extensive and published first, so he got the credit. However, the suggestions Marius made for naming the four large moons were eventually adopted.
On this day in 2014 – January 20th – ESA's Rosetta spacecraft awoke from a deep space hibernation of over thirty months.Rosetta's historic mission saw her then catch up with a comet, go into orbit around it, put a lander on its surface, and follow the comet as it went around the Sun.
On this day in 1908 – January 21st – Danish astronomer and astrophysicist Bengt Strömgren was born.
He applied quantum mechanics to understanding stars, produced pioneering work in the chemical composition of stars, and discovered vast shells of ionized hydrogen around stars, now known as Strömgren Spheres.
On this day in 1592 – January 22nd – Pierre Gassendi was born.Gassendi was a French philosopher, priest, astronomer, and scientific observer, experimentalist and chronicler. He was the first person ever to see a planet transiting the Sun when he observed the 1631 transit of Mercury.
On this day in 2003 – January 22nd – Pioneer 10's last signal was received.
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt, and later the first to pass the orbit of Pluto. Originally designed for a 21-month mission, it lasted more than 30 years.
On this day in 2003 – January 22nd – Pioneer 10's last signal was received.
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt, and later the first to pass the orbit of Pluto. Originally designed for a 21-month mission, it lasted more than 30 years.
On this day in 1986 – January 24th – Voyager 2 flew past Uranus.This fly-by was the first and only visit of a spacecraft to Uranus.
On this day in 2004 – January 25th – the Mars rover Opportunity landed on the red planet.
The mission was designed to last 90 Martian days, but it was operational until the summer of 2018 when an exceptionally severe dust storm blanketed Mars for three months. The rover didn't recover from the loss of power, and the mission was officially brought to an end in February 2019.
On this day in 1736 – January 25th – French mathematician Joseph Lagrange was born.
Lagrange was one of the great minds of the 18th century, and his work included major contributions to physics and astronomy. He's best known now for his identification of equilibrium points between the gravity of the Earth and that the Sun. NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) sits at one of these points.
On this day in 1994 – January 25th – Clementine was launched.
Over a period of nearly four months the US spacecraft Clementine made scientific observations of the Moon. In addition, the craft was used to test the effects on sensors and components of extended exposure to space.
On this day in 1983 – January 25th – the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was launched.
IRAS, a joint project of NASA (USA), NIVR (Netherlands) and SERC (UK), was the first space telescope to carry out a survey of the whole night sky at infrared wavelengths.
On this day in 1978 – January 26th – the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) was launched.
The IUE was a joint effort by the European Space Agency (ESA), the UK Science Research Council and NASA. It was switched off in 1996, after it had worked 14 years beyond its planned lifetime.
Mona, this doesn't belong here but I couldn't resist:
Astronomers got tired of watching the moon go around the earth for 24 hours, so,
they called it a day.
Angie, it has the makings of a joke, but pedant that I am (aka a spoilsport), I need to point out that it takes the Moon 29 days to go around the Earth and we call it a month, which doesn't work very well. :)
. On this day in 1829 – January 27th – pioneering astrophotographer Isaac Roberts was born.Roberts was a Welsh amateur astronomer, and a fellow of the Royal Geological Society. He developed a photographic technique which made it possible to capture faint objects. Roberts's photograph of the Andromeda Nebula actually showed the spiral structure of M31.
. On this day in 1941 – January 27th – New Zealand astrophysicist Beatrice Hill Tinsley was born.Beatrice Tinsley began her career late, and died in 1981, but in the intervening years she revolutionized our view of galactic evolution. Her pioneering work continues to be regularly cited by researchers.
. On this day in 1967 – January 27th – the crew of Apollo 1, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee, died when fire swept through the command module during a preflight test.They are commemorated at the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
. On this day in 1611 – January 28th – Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius was born.Johannes Hevelius studied sunspots, produced a lunar chart, discovered several comets, and compiled an important star atlas. He was one of the most influential astronomers of the 17th century.
. On this day in 1986 – January 28th – NASA's space shuttle Challenger was engulfed in a huge fireball soon after launch. The seven crew members perished in the accident.They are commemorated at the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
On this day in 1935 – January 29th – Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek was born.
Kohoutek has discovered over 70 minor planets, a number of planetary nebulae, a supernova and several comets. His name is probably best known internationally from the periodic comets that bear his name.
On this day in 1958 – January 31st – the United States launched Explorer 1.
The first satellite launched by the United States, it was part of the U.S. participation in the International Geophysical Year. It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.
. On this day in 2003 – February 1st – NASA's space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry, killing the seven crew members.They are commemorated at the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On this day in 1966 – February 3rd – the Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 made the first successful soft landing on the Moon.
Luna 9 also sent back the first pictures taken on the Moon's surface.
On this day in 1995 – February 3rd – the first space shuttle mission with a woman pilot was launched.
Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle. Four years later she became the first woman commander of a space shuttle.
. On this day in 1906 – February 4th – Clyde Tombaugh was born.Tombaugh was the American astronomer who discovered Pluto. He died in 1997, and a portion of his ashes were on the New Horizons spacecraft that journeyed to Pluto.
. On this day in 1963 – February 5th – Dutch astronomer Maarten Schmidt had a sudden insight that provided the clue to solving the mystery of quasars.Schmidt realized that a quasar wasn't an object in our Galaxy, and its strange spectrum wasn't full of unknown elements. It was mostly composed of hydrogen that was redshifted because of its enormous distance away in an expanding Universe.
On this day in 1974 – February 5th – NASA's Mariner 10 took a historic gravity assist from Venus in order to make its flyby of Mercury.
It was the first spacecraft to turn the theoretical possibility of such a gravity assist into a reality, and it enabled the first visit of a spacecraft to Mercury.
On this day in 1971 – February 6th – Alan Shepard hit the first golf balls on the Moon.
The Apollo 14 lunar module landed on the Moon on February 5th with lunar module pilot Ed Mitchell and commander Alan Shepard. Shepard hit the golf balls on their second exploration of the Moon.
Did he leave the golf balls on the moon?
Yes, Angie, the golf balls are still on the Moon. Even if he'd wanted to, there wouldn't have been time to go looking for them.
On this day in 1999 – February 7th – NASA's Stardust comet probe was launched.
Stardust was the first sample return mission to collect samples of cosmic dust, and of dust from a comet's coma, then return them to Earth.
On this day in 1984 – February 7th – NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless made the first untethered spacewalk during space shuttle mission STS-41B.
On this day in 1826 – February 8th – Jules Verne was born.
The French author was a major European literary figure, best known in the English-speaking world for his exciting and influential adventure stories, many of which are considered early science fiction. Ray Bradbury said "We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne."
Oh, so interesting! Love Julio Verne's books! Thanks for sharing, Mona!
On this day in 1974 – February 8th – the last crew to occupy NASA's Skylab left it.
Skylab, the first US space station, was launched in May 1973. It was the first US space station.
On this day in 1960 – February 9th – biochemist and NASA astronaut, Peggy Whitson, was born in Mount Ayr, Iowa, USA.
Whitson was the first woman to command the International Space Station (twice). She was also NASA's Chief Astronaut and although now retired, still has the record for the most time in space of any NASA astronaut.
. On this day in 2010 – February 11th – NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched.The SDO observes the Sun in order to understand the ways in which it affects the Earth, such as space weather.
On this day in 2001 – February 12th – NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft landed on the asteroid 433 Eros.
NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) Shoemaker was the first spacecraft ever to make a soft landing on an asteroid.
On this day in 1852 – February 13th – Johan Dreyer was born in Copenhagen.
Dreyer was a prominent astronomer and writer. He was born in Denmark but became a British citizen. Dreyer is best remembered for his New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (based on the Herschel catalogues of nebulae). The catalogue numbers are still in use, prefixed by NGC.
On this day in 1980 – February 14th – NASA's Solar Maximum mission was launched.
Solar Max was designed to investigate solar phenomena, particularly solar flares.
. On this day in 1990 – February 14th – NASA's Voyager 1 took a Family Portrait, looking towards the Sun from 6 billion km away.Earth is only one pixel of the image, christened by Carl Sagan "the pale blue dot"
On this day in 2000 – February 14th – NASA's NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft went into orbit around the asteroid Eros.
The asteroid was named for Eros, the Greek god of love, son of the goddess of love Aphrodite.
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.
. 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.
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.
. 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.
It was all over the papers at the time.
. On this day in 1948 – February 16th – a Gerard Kuiper discovered Miranda, a moon of Uranus.
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.
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.
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.
. 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.
. On this day in 1930 – February 18th – Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto.Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet for many years. It's now the largest known Kuiper Belt object, and is classified as a dwarf planet.
. On this day in 1473 – February 19th – Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland.His work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) set out his arguments for a heliocentric (sun-centered) system instead of a geocentric (Earth-centered) system.
On this day in 1986 – February 19th – Mir was launched by the Soviet Union.
Mir was the first modular space station, and was assembled in orbit. It was the first continuously inhabited long-term research station in orbit. The failing station was deorbited in March 2001.
On this day in 1965 – February 20th – John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Glenn's space capsule Friendship 7 took him around the Earth three times before its splashdown.
On this day in 1965 – February 20th – NASA's Ranger 8 ended its mission by a crash landing on the Moon.
Ranger 8 was the first NASA spacecraft to take high resolution close-up images of the Moon's surface. Before its own mission ended, it transmitted over 7000 images, intended to help choose landing sites for Apollo missions.
On this day in 1744 – February 21st – Dutch astronomer Eise Eisinga was born.
He built the Koninklijk Eise Eisinga Planetarium at his house in Franeker, Netherlands. The orrery still exists and is the oldest functioning planetarium in the world.
On this day in 1978 – February 22nd – the first Navstar GPS satellite was launched.
What is now called the Global Positioning System (GPS) was originally called Navstar GPS.
. On this day in 1945 – February 23rd – Ukranian astronomer Svetlana Gerasimenko was born.Gerasimenko's name is well known because she was the co-discoverer of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This was the comet explored by the Rosetta mission . Both the Rosetta spacecraft and the lander Philae are on the comet as it continues to orbit the Sun.
. On this day in 1987 – February 23rd – the light from supernova SN 1987A reached Earth.The supernova occurred in the Tarantula Nebula in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was the closest supernova seen in nearly four hundred years, visible to the unaided eye in the southern hemisphere. It has greatly increased our understanding of this spectacular phenomenon.
On this day in 1990 – February 23rd – Pioneer 11 crossed the orbit of Neptune on its way out of the Solar System.
Although on that date the spacecraft went beyond the most distant planet, since there are dwarf planets and many other objects beyond Neptune, the spacecraft still hasn't left the Solar System. It's now nearly 128 times farther from the Sun than the Earth is.
. On this day in 1968 – February 24th – the discovery of the first pulsar was announced.A pulsar is a fast-rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. We can only detect it when it's pointing towards us, rather like a lighthouse, so it seems to pulse. A neutron star is the remnant of a massive star following the collapse of its core in a supernova explosion.
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 been the co-discoverer of a comet. However, her husband – a well known astronomer – was given the credit.
. 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.
On this day in 1897 – February 27th – French astronomer Bernard Lyot was born.
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.
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.
On this day in 1927 – March 1st – American astronomer George Abell was born.
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.
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.
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.
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 data for over two hours.
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 to carry out the first mission to Jupiter. It's now almost 128 AU from Earth, heading out of the Solar System in the direction of the constellation Taurus.
. 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.
. On this day in 1979 – March 4th – Jupiter's rings were discovered by the Voyager 1 spacecraft.The rings are dark and made up mainly of dust, so had not been seen from Earth.
. On this day in 1923 – March 4th – Sir Patrick Moore, English amateur astronomer, writer and broadcaster, was born.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 is no longer with us, the program goes on and is the world's longest-running television series.
On this day in 1512 – March 5th – Gerardus Mercator was born.
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.
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.
On this day in 1787 – March 6th – Joseph Fraunhofer was born.
Fraunhofer was a German 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.
. On this day in 1937 – March 6th – Valentina Tereshkova was born.Tereshkova, the first woman in space, was a Soviet cosmonaut who spent three days orbiting in Vostok 6.
. On this day in 2015 – March 6th – NASA'S Dawn spacecraft went into orbit around dwarf planet Ceres.Dawn had already orbited the asteroid Vesta before becoming the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet.
. On this day in 1792 – March 7th – John Herschel was born.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, musician and linguist.
On this day in 1831 – March 7th – King William IV signed a Royal Charter for the Astronomical Society of London, and it assumed the name Royal Astronomical Society.
William IV also agreed to be the Society's Patron; every subsequent British monarch has followed suit.
. On this day in 1837 – March 7th – Henry Draper was born.Henry Draper was a pioneer of astrophotography. Following his early death, his wife Anna donated money to Harvard College Observatory to complete his catalogue of stellar spectra. If you see a deep sky object named with an "HD" prefix, it refers to this catalogue.
On this day in 2009 – March 7th – NASA launched its exoplanet-hunter Kepler.
During its two missions the space telescope found 2700 confirmed exoplanets and 3000 possibles for further investigation.
On this day in 1804 – March 8th – American astronomer and telescope maker Alvan Clark was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
In 1846 he founded Alvan Clark & Sons, which made astronomical telescopes and instruments. Notably, the company made the lenses for large refracting telescopes at Lick Observatory and Yerkes Observatory.
On this day in 1564 – March 9th – German pastor and amateur astronomer David Fabricius was born.
Along with his son Johannes, David Fabricius discovered Mira, the first known periodic variable star. They also made the first confirmed observations of sunspots.
. On this day in 1934 – March 9th – Yuri Gagarin was born.Soviet pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was the first person to orbit the Earth.
. On this day in 1979 – March 9th – astronomer Linda Morabito discovered evidence of volcanic activity on Jupiter's moon Io.She found the picture of the first active volcano known outside Earth among the images sent back by Voyager 1
On this day in 1977 – March 10th – rings were discovered around the planet Uranus.
The rings were found by a team of astronomers who were using the occultation by Uranus of star SAO 158687 to study the planet's atmosphere.
. On this day in 1811 – March 11th – French mathematician and astronomer Urbain LeVerrier was born.LeVerrier's calculations enabled the Berlin Observatory to discover the planet Neptune.
On this day in 1835 – March 12th – Canadian-American mathematician and astronomer Simon Newcomb was born.
Newcomb made important contributions to international timekeeping and other fields in applied mathematics such as economics and statistics. He was a professor at the United States Naval Observatory and at Johns Hopkins.
. On this day in 1781 – March 13th – William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus.He was the first person in history to discover a new planet.
On this day in 1885 – March 13th – Percival Lowell was born.
Lowell was an American businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer. He founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and began the effort that led to the discovery of Pluto 14 years after his death.
On this day in 1835 – March 14th – Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli was born.
Schiaparelli produced the most detailed map of Mars ever published, and it became a standard reference in planetary cartography. When he referred to canali (channels) on Mars, it was translated into English as canals, and Percival Lowell and others were convinced that there was an advanced civilization on Mars.
On this day in 1879 – March 14th – Albert Einstein was born.
Einstein is definitely a man who needs no introduction.
On this day in 1935 – March 14th – Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan was born.
Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17, was the last man on the Moon.
On this day in 2016 – March 14th – Part 1 of the joint ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars astrobiology mission was launched.
The launch of the spacecraft containing ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli lander was successful. (TGO is now in orbit around Mars, but the lander crashed.)
. On this day in 1713 – March 15th – French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille was born.Lacaille was one of astronomy's greats. He surveyed nearly 10,000 stars in the southern hemisphere, and invented fourteen new constellations still in use today.
. On this day in 1932 – March 15th – Apollo astronaut Alan Bean was born.Bean was the Apollo 12 lunar module pilot, and the fourth person to walk on the Moon.
. On this day in 1750 – March 16th – Caroline Herschel was born.Caroline Herschel was an assistant to her brother William. She also discovered eight comets and a number of deep-sky objects. She was the first woman to be awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.
On this day in 1899 – March 17th – American astronomer William Henry Pickering discovered Phoebe, the ninth satellite of Saturn.
It was the first moon ever to be discovered photographically. Pickering spotted it on a photographic plate taken in August 1989 at Harvard Colleg Obsrvatory's station near Arequipa, Peru.
On this day in 1899 – March 17th – Apollo astronaut Jim Irwin was born.
Irwin was the Apollo 15 lunar module pilot and eighth person to walk on the Moon.
On this day in 2011 – March 17th – NASA's Messenger spacecraft went into orbit around Mercury.
Messenger was the first craft ever to orbit Mercury.
On this day in 1965 – March 18th – the Soviet spacecraft Voskhod 2 was launched.
On this mission, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to leave a spacecraft for a "spacewalk".
On this day in 1799 – March 19th – the English physician, clergyman and astronomer William Rutter Dawes was born in London.
Dawes is probably best known for the Dawes' Limit, the formula he devised to determine the theoretical limit of the resolving power of a telescope. For his research into double stars the Royal Astronomical Society presented him with their Gold Medal in 1855.
On this day in 1958 – March 20th – the London Planetarium opened to the public.
For nearly half a century the planetarium received school children and tourists with presentations about astronomy and space. The planetarium was part of the site of Madame Tussauds, and the owners closed it in 2006 in order to use the area for entertainment presentations.
. On this day in 1865 – March 21st – Antonia Maury was born in Cold Stream, New York.She was best known for her work at Harvard College Observatory. Her stellar classification system allowed Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung to show the evolution of stars.
. On this day in 1997 – March 22nd – Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth.The two-tailed comet was probably the most widely observed comet of the twentieth century. It's also known as the Great Comet of 1997.
On this day in 1749 – March 23rd – Pierre-Simon Laplace was born.
Laplace was a brilliant French mathematician, astronomer, and physicist who is sometimes called "France's Newton". He accounted for the observed deviations of planets from their theoretical orbits by applying Newton's theory of gravitation to the problem.
. On this day in 1840 – March 23rd – American polymath John William Draper produced the first detailed photograph of the Moon.It was the first astrophotograph taken in North America.
On this day in 2001 – March 23rd – the Soviet/Russian space station Mir was deorbited.
Mir was the first space station assembled in orbit and the first continuously inhabited long-term orbital research station.
On this day in 1893 – March 24th – German astronomer Walter Baade was born.
Baade, who worked at Mt Wilson Observatory in California for many years, defined two distinct populations of stars, and his discovery that there are two types of Cepheid variable star meant that his recalculation of the known universe doubled the size calculated by Hubble.
. On this day in 1665 – March 25th – Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn's moon Titan.The European Space Agency (ESA) Titan lander was named for Huygens, a prominent 17th century Dutch mathematician and scientist.
On this day in 1883 – March 25th – American astronomer Earl Carl Slipher was born in Mulberry, Indiana.
As did his older brother Vesto, Earl Slipher worked at Lowell Observatory throughout his career. He was a noted planetary astronomer and a pioneer in planetary photography. The lunar crater Slipher on the Moon's far side is named for both of them.
On this day in 1928 – March 25th – Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell was born in Cleveland,Ohio.
Lovell flew on Gemini 7 and 12, Apollo 8, and Apollo 13. He was one of the first three humans to orbit the Moon during Apollo 8. He commanded Apollo 13, one of the most incredible missions in NASA history.
On this day in 1773 – March 26th – self-educated American mathematician and astronomer Nathaniel Bowditch was born in Salem, Massachusetts.
His greatest contribution to science was his translation of Laplace’s five-volume Mécanique Céleste (Celestial Mechanics). It earned him an international reputation and was of great importance to the development of astronomy in the United States.
. On this day in 1972 – March 27th – the Soviet probe Venera 8 was launched.Venera 8 made the first completely successful landing on Venus, and sent data from the surface for fifty minutes before succumbing to the intense pressure and searing temperature.
. On this day in 1802 – March 28th – Heinrich Olbers, German physician and astronomer, discovered Pallas.Pallas was the second asteroid to be discovered, and it was counted as a planet at the time, as Ceres had been.
. On this day in 1807 – March 29th – Heinrich Olbers, German physician and astronomer, discovered Pallas.Olbers discovered Vesta almost five years to the day after his discovery of Pallas. Vesta was the third asteroid to be discovered, and it was also counted as a planet at the time. Like Ceres, it's been visited by NASA's Dawn mission.
On this day in 1974 – March 29th – NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft made the first ever flyby of Mercury.
On this day in 1879 – March 30th – the German lens maker Bernhard Woldemar Schmidt was born near Tallinn in Estonia.
His name lives on in the Schmidt telescope that bears his name. He invented a telescope mirror that let astronomers get sharp wide-field images of the sky with a single exposure. They are still widely used. The most famous example is the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory, completed in 1948.
On this day in 1997 – March 31st – the Pioneer 10 mission officially ended.
NASA's Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to go through the asteroid belt and the first to fly by Jupiter. After the end of the mission, for a time there was still contact with the spacecraft to record telemetry as it headed out into the Kuiper Belt. It's currently about 129 AU from Earth.
. 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.
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.
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.
On this day in 1845 – April 2nd – French physicists Leon Foucault and Louis Fizeau took the first successful photograph of the Sun.
On this day in 1693 – April 3rd – English clockmaker John Harrison was born.
Harrison invented the marine chronometer, solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea. It revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel.
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[font:Verdana][b]Harrison invented the marine chronometer, solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea. It revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel.
On this day in 1693 – April 3rd – English clockmaker John Harrison was born.
Harrison invented the marine chronometer, solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea. It revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On this day in 1965 – April 6th – Intelsat I became the first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit.
It was nicknamed Early Bird from the proverb "The early bird catches the worm." Although the satellite remains in orbit, the last time it was activated was in 1990.
On this day in 1991 – April 7th – the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was deployed by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
It was the second of NASA's "Great Observatories" and it transformed our knowledge of the high-energy sky, producing the first ever all-sky survey in gamma rays.
On this day in 2001 – April 7th – NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter was launched.
The orbiter was designed to look for evidence of past or present water and ice, as well as study the planet's geology and radiation environment. Its primary mission was meant to last 32 months, but It's still in service.
On this day in 1793 – April 8th – German amateur astronomer Karl Ludwig Hencke was born in Driesen, Brandenburg.
Hencke discovered five variable stars and carried out much useful work on the general improvement of star charts. But his major discoveries were the asteroids Astraea (1845), found 15 years after his search began, and Hebe in 1847. They were the first new asteroids known since the discovery of Vesta was in 1807.
On this day in 1964 – April 8th – NASA's Gemini 1 was launched as an unmanned test flight.
The Gemini program was the bridge between NASA's Mercury program - its original ventures in manned spaceflight - and the Apollo moon program.
On this day in 1921 – April 9th – Mary Jackson was born.
Jackson was NASA's first black female engineer. She began as a computer for NASA's predecessor organization, but went on to take advanced engineering classes. She worked at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for most of her career.
On this day in 1959 – April 9th – NASA selected its first group of astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven.
They were the pioneers of the US manned space program: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. None of the Mercury Seven are still alive.
On this day in 1968 – April 9th – Europe's spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) - Guiana Space Centre - became operational.
This first launch was of a sounding rocket from the French Veronique series.
On this day in 1919 – April 10th – American aerospace engineer John C. Houbolt was born in Altoona, Iowa.
Houbolt lead the team behind the lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) that was used to land humans on the Moon and return them to Earth. Using LOR, NASA saved time and billions of dollars by efficiently using existing rocket technology.
People from the early 20th century certainly made a lot of ground breaking accomplishments. Today we're on track to accomplish things but they are built on previous creations.
Yes, indeed, Angie. Many ideas are born before the time in which they can be implemented. My article on the Moon
briefly tells of the Ukrainian known as Yuri Kondratyuk who originated the LOR that Houbolt persuaded NASA to use for Apollo. Kondratyuk did his brilliant work over two decades before his death in WWII and well before the Space Age. Fortunately, his papers were smuggled out of the Soviet Union after the war.
On this day in 1960 – April 11th – Project Ozma began.
Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake initiated this project. It was a pioneering SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) experiment that searched for signs of life in distant planetary systems by monitoring interstellar radio waves.
On this day in 1970 – April 11th – NASA's Apollo 13 Moon mission was launched.
This was the ill-fated mission that didn't make onto the Moon, but with the assistance of a lot of smart people, the astronauts made it safely back to Earth.
On this day in 1984 – April 11th – the space shuttle Challenger redeployed the Solar Max satellite following their retrieval and repair of it.
. On this day in 1986 – April 11th – Halley's Comet was at its closest to the Earth.
On this day in 2006 – April 11th – ESA's Venus Express was inserted into orbit around Venus.
The mission provided an enormous amount of data on the Venusian atmosphere until the European Space Agency concluded it in December 2014. In addition to helping to understand the atmosphere of Venus, it also contributed to an a general understanding of atmospheric dynamics in general, including climate change on Earth.
. On this day in 1961 – April 12th – Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first spaceman.Gagarin made the historic first orbit of the Earth in the Vostok 1 craft.
On this day in 1597 – April 13th – Giovanni Battista Hodierna was born.
Hodierna was a Sicilian astronomer at the court of the Duke of Montechiaro. Pre-dating Charles Messier by over a century, he compiled a sky catalog that included a number of nebulous objects that might be confused with comets.
On this day in 1629 – April 14th – Dutch scientist, mathematician and inventor, Christiaan Huygens, was born in The Hague.
Huygens was a prominent scientist in his day. His varied contributions included the invention of the pendulum clock, and the discovery of Saturn's moon Titan. ESA (European Space Agency) named its Titan lander after him.
On this day in 1868 – April 14th – Irish astronomer and mathematician Annie Scott Dill Maunder (née Russell) was born in Strabane, County Tyrone.
She worked at Greenwich Observatory, but had to give up her job when she married her colleague Edward Maunder. However they made a formidable team, going on solar eclipse expeditions together and collaborating on publications.
On this day in 1972 – April 16th – Apollo 16 was launched.
It was crewed by Commander John Young, Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly.
On this day in 1598 – April 17th – Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli was born in Ferrera.
Riccioli's best known for his Almagestum Novum published in 1651. It included his Moon map and over 1500 folio pages densely packed with text, tables and illustrations. The work became a standard technical reference book for astronomers all over Europe and included the names of prominent lunar features still in use today.
On this day in 2014 – April 18th – NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was intentionally crashed into the Moon at end of its mission.
LADEE, orbiting the Moon's equator, studied the lunar exosphere and dust in the Moon's vicinity. It was crashed on the far side of the Moon to ensure that it didn't damage historically important landing sites on the near side.
On this day in 1971 – April 19th – Salyut 1 was launched.
Salyut 1, launched by the Soviet Union, was the first ever manned space station.
On this day in 1967 – April 20th – NASA's Surveyor 3 unmanned probe landed on the Moon.
In November 1969, Apollo 12 astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean would land near the probe and remove some parts to return them to Earth.
On this day in 1724 – April 22nd – the German philosopher Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia).
His theoretical work in astronomy and cosmology anticipated and inspired later discoveries about our Galaxy and others, including the idea that the Solar System was a part of a system of stars constituting a lens-shaped galaxy, and that there were many other galaxies scattered throughout and making up the whole Universe.
On this day in 1858 – April 23rd – Max Planck was born in Kiel, Germany.
Planck was a theoretical physicist best known as the originator of quantum theory. His work won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. The European Space Agency (ESA) named a space observatory for him - it mapped the cosmic microwave background from 2009-2013.
On this day in 1957 – April 24th – in Britain, the first ever broadcast of the BBC's monthly documentary television programme, The Sky at Night, was aired.
The show was presented by Patrick Moore from its first airing until his death in 2012. It's been the longest-running program with the same presenter in television history, and continues to air with various astronomers presenting.
On this day in 1970 – April 24th – China became the fifth nation to launch its own satellite.
Dongfanghong I had a design life of 20 days. During that time, it transmitted telemetry data and space readings to the Earth.
On this day in 1990 – April 25th – the Hubble Space Telescope was deployed.
The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched the telescope during its STS-31 mission.
On this day in 1920 – April 26th – the Shapley-Curtis debate took place on the nature and distance of "spiral nebulae".
Even in 1920, we didn't know what the "spiral nebulae" were. Were they objects in our Milky Way galaxy and therefore comparatively close? Or were they "island universes", i.e., other galaxies, and therefore at a great distance?
On this day in 2017 – April 26th – the Cassini spacecraft made the first dive of the Grande Finale of its 13-year study of the Saturnian system.
It was the first of a series of close orbits that involved Cassini diving between Saturn and its rings. Astronomers collected data to learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn's rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant's interior.
On this day in 20103 – April 28th – NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) was launched
GALEX, which operated until early 2012, was an orbiting space telescope observing galaxies in ultraviolet light. Its observations provided data about how galaxies - the basic structures of our Universe - evolve and change.
. On this day in 1900 – April 28th – Dutch astronomer Jan Oort was born.Oort made major contributions to the understanding of the Milky Way and was a pioneer in radio astronomy. He realized that the orbits of comets "implied there was a lot more solar system than the region occupied by the planets." The Oort cloud of comets that surrounds the Solar System was named for him.
. On this day in 1906 – April 28th – Dutch-American astronomer Bart Bok was born.He's best known for his work on the structure and evolution of our Galaxy and the dark nebulae named for him. Click here to learn more about Bok globules.
On this day in 1928 – April 28th – American geologist and planetary scientist Gene Shoemaker was born.
Shoemaker was one of the founders of the study of planetary science. And along with his wife Carolyn and David Levy, he was co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which hit Jupiter.
On this day in 2013 – April 29th – ESA's Herschel Space Observatory mission ended.
The European Space Agency's infrared observatory was named after William Herschel, who discovered infrared radiation, and his sister and collaborator Caroline Herschel. The observatory was able to see the coldest and dustiest objects in space, but it needed liquid helium to cool its instruments. When that ran out, the mission ended.
. On this day in 1682 – May 1st – the Paris Observatory was inaugurated by Louis XIV.It's one of the oldest (and the oldest still active one) astronomical centres in the world.
. On this day in 1949 – May 1st – Gerard Kuiper discovered Neptune's moon Nereid.Nereid was the second known moon of Neptune. It was discovered over a century after William Lassell discovered the first one, Triton.
On this day in 1996 – May 1st – Comet Hyakutake made its closest approach to Sun.
It's known as The Great Comet of 1996. its passage near the Earth was one of the closest cometary approaches of the previous 200 years.
On this day in 1989 – May 4th – NASA's Magellan spacecraft was released by Space Shuttle mission STS-30 Atlantis, the first interplanetary mission to be so launched.
The spacecraft, often referred to as the Venus Radar Mapper, went on to map the surface of Venus using synthetic aperture radar which is able to penetrate the planet's thick clouds.
On this day in 2002 – May 4th – NASA launched the Aqua scientific research satellite.
Aqua was the second major component of the Earth Observing System (EOS), and was designed to study the precipitations, evaporation and cycling of water.
. On this day in 1961 – May 5th – Alan Shepard became the first American in space, making a suborbital flight in Freedom 7.Ten years later Shepard walked on the Moon as the commander of Apollo 11.
On this day in 1909 – May 5th – Irish astronomer Mervyn Archdall Ellison was born in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford.
He was a world authority on solar physics and the effect of solar flares on the Earth. Ellison began his research when working as a school teacher, and continued it at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. He was also a member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.