Chronography of Astronomy and Space Exploration

Page last modified 7/8/2022


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Aurora 30-minute forecast,


Asteroid and Meteor exploration � see Appendix

Comet exploration � see Appendix

Jupiter exploration � see Appendix

Mercury exploration � See Appendix

Mars exploration � see Appendix

Moon exploration � see Appendix

Neptune exploration � see Appendix

Pluto exploration-see Appendix

Saturn exploration � see Appendix

Sun exploration � see Appendix

Uranus exploration � see Appendix

Venus exploration � see Appendix


25/12/2021, The James Webb space telescope was launched form French Guiana.

1/12/2019, The radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was wrecked when cables supporting the receiver above its dish snapped..

14/3/2018, The world famous astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, died of motor neurone disease, aged 76 (born 8/1/1942). He was famous for his work on Black Holes, and his book A Brief History of Time.

14/9/2015, Gravity waves generated by a collision between two Black Holes were detected by interferometers at the LIGO facility in the US.

1/11/2012, NASA detected the light from the very first stars to exist in the Universe.

26/8/2012, Neil Armstrong died.

25/8/2012, Voyager I became the first man-made object to leave the solar system.

24/6/2012, Three Chinese astronauts successfully docked with an orbiting module, making China the 3rd country to accomplish this mission.

21/7/2011, The Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Centre, concluding the Space Shuttle Programme.

8/7/2011, After making 134 missions, the space shuttle Atlantis made the final space shuttle fight.

16/12/2009, Astronomers reported the discovery of an exoplanet where liquid water might exist.

10/2/2009, A Russian and an American satellite collided, creating large amounts of space debris.

9/12/2008, Scientists confirmed the existence of a Black Hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

28/9/2008, Space X launched the first private satellite, Falcon I, into orbit.

2007, The first FRB, or Fast Radio Burst, was observed. The mechanism of their origin remains uncertain.

9/8/2006, James van Allen, physicist who discovered radiation belts around the Earth, died (born 7/9/1914)

4/7/2006, The shuttle Discovery launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Centre, bound for the International Space Station with 7 astronauts aboard

3/11/2005, Sagittarius A, a compact radio source at the centre of the Milky Way, is proved to be a supermassive black hole.

12/10/2005, The second Chinese space flight, Shenzhou 6, was launched, taking Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng into orbit for 5 days.

9/8/2005, The space shuttle Discovery landed in the US, after taking off on 26/7/2005.

29/7/2005, Astronomers claimed to have discovered a planet beyond Pluto and larger than Pluto in the outer solar system. It was provisionally named 2003 UB313.

26/7/2005, The US launched its first space shuttle mission since the Columbia broke up on re-entry in early 2003.

5/11/2003, NASA announced that the space probe Voyager 1, launched in 9/1977, had now reached the edge of the Solar System, the point where the solar winds ceased to be detectable.It was now over 13 billion kilometres from Earth.

1/2/2003, The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas on re-entering the earth�s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board.

16/1/2003, Space Shuttle Columbia took off; it disintegrated 16 days later on re-entry to the Earth�s atmosphere.

1/3/2002, The Hubble Space Telescope was overhauled.

28/4/2001, Billionaire businessman Denis Tito became the world�s first space tourist, on board a Soyuz supply mission. He was in space for 8 days, paying US$ 20 million.

23/3/2001, The abandoned Russian space station Mir crashed back to Earth, falling into the Pacific Ocean. It had been launched in 1986 and had long exceeded its expected operational lifetime.

2/11/2000, The first crew of the International Space Station � 2 Russians and an American � arrived there on a Russian spacecraft. They would stay for 4 months.

31/10/2000. One astronaut and two cosmonauts became the first inhabitants of the International Space Station.

11/10/2000, The 100th flight of the Space Shuttle.

16/7/2000, The European Space Agency launched a space probe to research the Earth�s magnetosphere.

1999, The Chandra X-Ray observatory was launched.

22/11/1999, China launched a manned spacecraft.

20/11/1998, The first launch of the components for the International Space Station.

29/10/1998, John Glenn, US astronaut, returned to space.

24/10/1998, The USA launched the Deep Space ion propulsion space probe.

8/1/1998, Scientists announced that the expansion rate of the universe was increasing.

5/5/1997, The USA launched the Iridium satellites, for global communications.

31/3/1997. The Pioneer space probe ended its useful life 6 billion miles from Earth.

12/2/1997, Japan launched the Haruka satellite, for radio astronomy observations.

20/12/1996, Carl Sagan, astronomer, died.

19/9/1996. The US spacecraft Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir.

4/6/1996, The European Space Agency�s �565 million Ariane 5 rocket exploded during lift off.

17/2/1996, The USA launched the NEAR space probe, to rendezvous with an asteroid.

17/11/1995, The European Space Agency launched ISO, an Infared space observatory.

6/10/1995, Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the discovery of the first extra-solar planet, 51 Pegasi b.

29/6/1995, The space shuttle Columbia docked for the first time with the Russian Mir space station.

22/3/1995, Valeri Polyakov returned to earth from the longest stay in space by a human, 437 days, 18 hours.

8/1/1994, Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov left for the Mir Space Station. He remained there until 22/3/1985, a record 437 days in space.

18/12/1993, The first corrected images from the Hubble Telescope were taken.

10/12/1993. The Hubble telescope was successfully repaired in space by Shuttle astronauts. Its mirror had been slightly misshapen, blurring its vision of deep space. The Shuttle landed safely on 13/12/1993.

2/12/1993. The Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched on a mission to repair flaws in the Hubble Space Telescope.

28/3/1993, Type II supernova detected in M81.

19/1/1993 The space shuttle Endeavour landed after a 6-day mission.

10/8/1992, The European Space Agency launched Topex/Poseidon, a geodetic mapping satellite.

23/4/1992, Scientists in the USA announced the discovery of �ripples� in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation of the universe. This helped account for the present-day uneven distribution of matter in the Universe.

22/1/1992, Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space, also the first neurologist. She spent 8 days on the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth 129 times.

19/5/1991, Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, lifted off with two Soviet astronauts to join up with the Soviet Mir space station.

27/6/1990, Scientists admitted that the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in April 1990, had a wrongly-shaped mirror.

25/4/1990. The Hubble Space telescope was launched from the Space Shuttle �Discovery�.

5/4/1990, The USA made the first airborne satellite launch.

30/3/1991, The USSR launched Almaz-1, a survey satellite.

18/1/1989, Astronomers discovered a pulsar in the remnants of Supernova 1987A.

15/11/1988, The USSR launched an unmanned space shuttle, Buran.

29/9/1988, NASA recommenced space flights, grounded after the Challenger disaster.

9/4/1988, The landmark work A Brief History of Time was published by Stephen Hawking.

23/2/1987, A tank full of 7,000 tons of ultrapure water detected a flash of neutrinos at the same time as a supernova was seen, proving the theory that supernovae collapsed into neutron stars.

5/2/1987, Japan launched the Astro-C satellite to observe neutron stars and Black Holes, using X rays and gamma rays.

13/3/1986, The Russian spacecraft Soyuz T15 made the first ferry between space stations.

19/2/1986, The USSR launched the Mir space station.

28/1/1986. The US space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off on its 10th flight, killing 7 astronauts. 90 seconds after blast off from Cape Canaveral, and nine miles up. An �O� ring failed due to the extreme and unseasonal cold; ice had to be chipped from the shuttle before take-off. The fuel tanks containing liquid hydrogen and oxygen ignited. Rescue ships reached the crash site a few miles offshore but were held up for an hour due to the rain of burning debris. There were five men and two woman on board, including a schoolteacher, Mrs Christa McAutcliffe. It was President Reagan�s idea to send a schoolteacher into space, and she won the competition from over 11,000 applicants. Her husband and two children were amongst the thousands of spectators. The space shuttle fleet was grounded for three years, and this disaster was a factor in the termination of the shuttle programme in 2011.

8/11/1984, The USA retrieved a satellite from space.

14/10/1984, Martin Ryle, English radio astronomer, died aged 66.

28/8/1984, The space shuttle Discovery made its maiden flight.

25/7/1984, Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space.

7/4/1984, The space shuttle Challenger was launched on its 5th mission.

7/2/1984, Bruce McCandless made the first space walk without an attachment to the spacecraft, from the space shuttle Challenger.

3/2/1984, The space shuttle Challenger was launched on its 4th mission.

30/8/1983, The third flight by the Challenger space shuttle.

13/6/1983. The US spacecraft Pioneer 1 became the first man-made object to leave the Solar System.

7/4/1983, Don Peterson and Story Musgrave performed the first space walk from the Space Shuttle.

4/4/1983, The space shuttle Challenger was launched.

26/1/1983, IRAS, the Infra-Red Astronomy Satellite, was launched. It observed astronomical phenomena from bodies too cool to emit visible light. It stopped functioning on 22/11/1983.

27/6/1982, The US space shuttle Columbia made its fourth flight.

22/3/1982. The US space shuttle Columbia made its third flight.

12/11/1981, The US Space Shuttle Columbia became the first space vehicle to make a second trip.

14/4/1981, The space shuttle Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force base, California, after 2 days in space.

12/4/1981. The USA launched its first space shuttle, Columbia, from Cape Canaveral, crewed by Robert Crippen and John Young.

18/7/1980, India launched a satellite, Rohini.

11/7/1979. America�s Skylab I fell to earth after 34,981 orbits in six years. It had been launched on 14/5/1973.Debris landed in Australia.

24/1/1978, A Soviet nuclear-powered satellite, Cosmos 954, crashed in north-western Canada, spilling radioactive debris. The Canadian government presented Moscow with a 6 billion dollar bill for the clean-up, of which Moscow eventually paid half.

18/2/1977, The Space Shuttle Enterprise went on its maiden �flight� on the top of a Boeing 747 plane.

9/1/1976, Rupert Wildt, German-US astronomer, died in New Orleans., USA.

17/7/1975. The crews of Apollo 18 (USA) and Soyuz 19 (USSR) visited each other�s capsules in the first such joint space venture between the two countries. They shook hands 140 miles over the south coast of Britain.The Apollo 18 mission was reckoned to have cost US$ 500 million, and the expense of this put an end to the Apollo project.

15/7/1975, Apollo 18 was launched, crewed by Vance Brand, Thomas Stafford, and Donald Slayton.

16/11/1974, The Arecibo radio telescope beamed a message towards the M13 star cluster encoding information about mankind, in case any aliens are there to receive it.

19/7/1974, The Soviet space probe Soyuz 14 returned safely to Earth.

8/2/1974, America�s final Skylab mission ended after 84 days, as Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson, and William Pogue returned to Earth.

24/12/1973, Dutch-US astronomer Kuiper died.

16/11/1973, The third Skylab mission was launched, on an 84-day mission.

14/5/1973. The US put Skylab I into orbit. It eventually returned to earth on 11 July 1979 after 34,981 orbits.

7/3/1973, Comet Kohoutek was discovered by Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek.

20/10/1972, Harlow Shapley, US astronomer, died in Boulder, Colorado.

5/1/1972, President Nixon authorised a US$ 5 � billion space shuttle programme.

30/6/1971. The USSR spacecraft Soyuz 11 returned to earth but the 3 cosmonauts were found dead in their seats.

24/4/1971 The Russian spacecraft Soyuz 10 linked up with the orbiting Salyut space station.

19/4/1971, The Soviet Union launched the world�s first space station, Salyut 1.

1970, The first telescope at the Mauna Kea observatory, Hawaii, was installed.

24/4/1970, China launched its first satellite.

11/2/1970, Japan launched its first Earth satellite.

18/5/1969, Apollo 10 was launched, crewed by Thomas Stafford, John Young, and Eugene Cernan.

3/3/1969, Apollo 9 was launched, manned by James McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell Schweickart.

1968, US physicist John Wheeler (1911 � 2008) proposed what he called �Black Holes�; stars so massive not even light could escape from them (see 1784). Karl Schwarzchild (1873 � 1916) also worked on this theory.

22/10/1968, Apollo 7, having orbited the Earth 163 times, splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean,

11/10/1968, The USA�s Apollo 7 spacecraft was launched flawlessly by its 700 ton Saturn 1B rocket and began 10 days and 21 hours in space.It was crewed by Walter Schirra, Don Eiselle and Walter Cunningham.

27/3/1968. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space in 1961, was killed in a plane crash near Moscow, on a routine training flight.

28/11/1967, The first pulsar was discovered by Susan Burnell (born 1943), a radio astronomer at Cambridge, England. The regular radio pulses were initially thought to be signals from intelligent aliens.

10/10/1967, The Outer Space Treaty came into effect, detailing guidelines for the exploration of outer space and banning the stationing of weapons of mass destruction there. It stated that no other planet or moon could be claimed by any one nation or company.

24/4/1967. The first space casualty occurred when Vladimir Komarov was killed as the Russian spacecraft Soyuz I crashed to earth after leaving orbit. It came to Earth on the steppes of Orenburg.

27/1/1967, Fire broke out on the spacecraft Apollo I during ground tests at Cape Kennedy. Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were killed. Normally fire-resistant plastics ignited in the pure oxygen used by the astronauts.

11/11/1966, Final mission of the Gemini series. James A Lovell and Edwin E Aldrin completed 5 hours of extra-vehicular activity.

18/7/1966, The US launched the Gemini 10 spacecraft, crewed by John Young and Michael Collins.

17/3/1966. US astronauts docked in space.

3/6/1966, Gemini 9 was launched, with 2 astronauts on board.

15/3/1966, The US spacecraft Gemini 8 was launched, with Neil Armstrong and David Scott.

1965, Technicians working for the Bell Telephone Company reported radio interference at 3.2 cm wavelength which they initially blamed on birds. In fact the radiation was from space and confirmed the Big Bang Theory, which had first been proposed by the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre in 1927. In fact US astronomer Robert Dicke had calculated the expected frequency of this radiation a year earlier in 1964, as the �afterglow� of the Big Bang.

4/12/1965, The US spacecraft Gemini 7 was launched, crewed by Frank Borman and James Lovell.

26/11/1965, France launched a satellite, A-1 Asterix.

21/8/1965, The US launched the spacecraft Gemini 5, crewed by Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad. It orbited the Earth for 8 days before a safe splashdown in the Atlantic.

3/6/1965, Gemini IV was launched, crewed by James McDivitt and Edward White. During the flight, Edward H Whitebecame the first man to walk in space, for 20 minutes.

6/4/1965, The US launched Early Bird, a weather satellite,

23/3/1965, US spacecraft Gemini I was launched, crewed by Virgil Grissom and John Young.

18/3/1965. The first walk in space, lasting about 10 minutes, was made by Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, from the spaceship Voskhod 2.

19/1/1965, The unmanned Gemini 2 was launched on a suborbital test of various spacecraft systems, in preparation for the first US mission to send two astronauts into space.

1964, US astronomer Robert Dicke proposed that space should contain the �afterglow� of the Big bang, in the form of radio waves. In 1965 this radiation was picked up, at a frequency of 3.2 cm, by the Bell Telephone Company; they initially attributed such radio waves to interference by birds.

12/10/1964. Russia launched the first three man space ship.

5/6/1964, The first British space flight, as the Blue Streak rocket took off from Woomera in Australia.

13/12/1963, The UN approved Resolution 1962 (XVIII), The Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space, the first of five declarations governing the nations' exploration of outer space. Among the nine principles contained in the declaration were that no nation could lay claim to sovereignty of any portion of space or celestial bodies, but that each nation would have jurisdiction over its own objects in outer space regardless of where they returned to Earth, and that exploration would be "in the interests of all mankind" and nations would regard astronauts as �envoys of mankind� to be rendered aid in the event of an emergency, regardless of nationality.

2/7/1963, Seth Barnes Nicholson, US astronomer, died in Los Angeles, California.

17/6/1963, The USSR achieved the first link-up of two spacecraft in space. Valentina Tereshkova (26) aboard the Vostok 6 rocket met with Valery Bykovsky (28) who had been orbiting Earth aboard Vostok 5 for two days. Crowds celebrated in the streets of Moscow.

16/6/1963. Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to travel into space. She was born to a peasant family in Maslennikovo, Russia, in 1937, and made her first parachute jump aged 22 with a local aviation club. Her enthusiasm for skydiving brought her to the attention of the soviet space programme, which wanted a woman in space in the early 1960s. Tereshkova was launched into space on 16/6/1993 from Tyaturum aboard Vostok 6, guided by an automatic control system. After just under 3 days in space, and 48 Earth orbits, Vostok 6 re-entered the atmosphere and Tereshkova successfully parachuted to Earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet. She later received the Order of Lenin and Hero of the Soviet Union awards.

15/5/1963, US astronaut Gordon Cooper, launched in an Atlas rocket, made 22 orbits of the Earth.

5/2/1963, Maarten Schmidt identified red shifts in quasars.

29/9/1962, Canada launched its first satellite, the Alouette.

22/7/1962, The Mariner 1 spacecraft flew erratically several minutes after launch and had to be destroyed after less than five minutes, at a cost of $4,000,000 for the satellite and $8,000,000 for the rocket. The $12 million dollar loss was later traced to the omission of an overbar in the handwritten text from which the computer programming for the rocket guidance system was drawn.

14/6/1962, The European Space Research Organisation was formed in Paris.

26/4/1962, Britain�s first satellite, Ariel, was launched from Cape Canaveral.

20/2/1962. Astronaut John Glenn made three orbits of the Earth in his spacecraft Mercury VI, the first American in orbit. Bad weather on 26/1/1962 at Cape Canaveral had delayed his launch.

1961, The first quasars were discovered.

1961, Frank Drake devised an equation to estimate the number of detectable extra-terrestrial civilisations in the Milky Way galaxy.

26/10/1961, First test flight of Saturn launch vehicle.

23/9/1961, Willie McCool, astronaut, was born.

25/5/1961, US President Kennedy announced the Apollo space programme. Tests began on the Saturn-1 rocket system.

5/5/1961. The Americans put Alan Shephard into space for 15 minutes, reaching an altitude of 116 miles before splashing down 303 miles from the launch site. He was the second man and the first American to reach space. However the Russian space flight on 12/4/1961 had lasted 108 minutes and circled the Earth.

12/4/1961. Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) made the first orbit of the Earth, at an altitude of 300km, in his spaceship Vostok 1. He took off from Tyuratom in Kazakhstan, made a single Earth-orbit, and landed near Engels in the Saratov region.

22/8/1960. Two dogs returned to Earth in a Soviet space craft. The Russian dogs, named Byelka (Squirrel) and Strelka (Arrow) returned on board Sputnik V, along with 40 mice, two rats, and some plants, as they prepared for a human launch. President John F Kennedy angrily asked US scientists why the first pair of space dogs were called Strelka and Byelka and not Rover and Fido.

25/6/1960, Walter Baade, German-US astronomer, died in Gottingen, Germany.

15/5/1960, Sputnik IV was launched.

13/4/1960, The USA launched Transit 1b, a weather satellite.

14/3/1960, Jodrell Bank radio telescope set a record for the furthest communication with a man made object. Radio communications were established with the US satellite Pioneer 5, over 407,000 miles away.

28/3/1959, Two monkeys returned alive to earth after being sent into space by the USA.

17/2/1959, The Earth satellite Vanguard 2 was launched by the USA, to take photos of the Earth.

12/1/1959, A US$ 400 million contract for the Mercury US space programme was awarded to the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation of St Louis.

27/8/1958, Sergei Konstantinovich Krikalev, Russian cosmonaut, was born.

29/7/1958. NASA, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, was founded.

15/5/1958, The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 3 into Earth orbit.

21/3/1958. London Planetarium opened in Marylebone Street, the first planetarium in Britain.

17/3/1958, The US launched the Vanguard I satellite, the first with solar batteries.

31/1/1958, The US Army at Cape Canaveral launched America�s first Earth satellite, Explorer I. This led to the accidental discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts around the Earth, when the satellite�s radiation meters suddenly showed zero readings. US astronomer James Van Allen realised that the meters had been overloaded and broken down.

4/1/1958, Sputnik 1 disintegrated after completing 1,367 orbits of the Earth. It had travelled some 43 million miles in 92 days.

24/4/1957. The BBC broadcast Patrick Moore�sThe Sky at Night� for the first time.

30/3/1957, Yelena Kondakova, Russian astronaut, was born.

8/2/1957, Walther Wilhelm Georg Bothe, German physicist who first used a Geiger counter to detect cosmic rays, died in Heidelberg, West Germany.

12/1/1957, President Eisenhower urged the USSR to agree to a ban on warfare in space.

10/9/1956, Robert Julius Trumpler, Swiss-US astronomer, died in Oakland, California.

18/4/1955. Albert Einstein, born 14/3/1879, died in Princeton, New Jersey, of a stroke. He was born to a middle class German family of Jewish ancestry. Einstein graduated in 1900 from the Federal institute of technology in Zurich; he worked hard in the laboratory but skipped lectures. He completed his general theory of relativity in 1915 and received the Nobel Prize in 1922. He became an American citizen in 1940 after having signed a famous letter to President F D Roosevelt warning that Germany might try and build an atomic bomb.

30/11/1954, Mrs Hewlett Hodges, of Sylacauga, Alabama, USA, became the only person to have been struck be a meteorite. The 4kg rock crashed through the roof of her house, bounced off a radio, and hit her hip, causing a massive bruise but no other injuries.

7/12/1952, Forest Ray Moulton, US astronomer, died in Wilmette, Illinois.

2/4/1952, Bernard Ferdinand Lyot, French astronomer, died on a train near Cairo, Egypt.


Start of radio astronomy

11/10/1957. The radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, planned by Sir Bernard Lovell, went into operation.

1951, US astronomers Harold Ewen and Edward Purcell measured, from Harvard University, the 1.42 GHz radio waves from the Milky Way, the signature of clouds of neutral hydrogen gas, which is what collapses to form new stars.

1937, The US astronomer Grote Reber built the first radio telescope.

1932, The US engineer Karl Jansky (1905-50) became the first person to detect radio waves from space. He discovered these waves accidentally because they caused static whilst he was researching long-distance radio communications for the Bell Telephone Company. However there was little interest in radio astronomy until after World War Two.


1950, Atmospheric pollution forced the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, to move to Herstmonceaux, Sussex.

30/9/1950, The first International Astronautical Congress was held, with more than a thousand scientists, mostly from Europe, assembling in Paris.

26/1/1949, The first test photograph was made at Mount Palomar observatory.

25/6/1948, Jim Cohen, radio astronomer, was born (died 1/11/2006)

3/6/1948, The large telescope on Mount Palomar, California, with its 5 metre aperture lens, came into service.

17/9/1946, Sir James Hopwood Jeans, English astronomer, died in Dorking, Surrey.

1945, Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, Cheshire, was founded by Sir Bernard Lovell.


Development of rockets and space travel, 1903 � 1957 (first animal sent into space)

3/11/1957. The Soviets sent a dog into Earth-orbit. The dog, called Laika (meaning �barker�) was a Siberian husky rounded up as a stray. She probably died of overheating after measuring systems on board the Sputnik 2 failed, after a few hours in orbit 2,000 miles above Earth. The space capsule continued to orbit Earth until April 1958 when after 2,570 orbits it crashed to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere. Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space, in April 1961 aboard Vostok 1. The Soviets sent 13 more dogs into space, 8 of which survived.

4/10/1957. The first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik I, by the USSR was launched from Tyuratam, 170 miles east of the Aral Sea. It weighed 80 kg.

21/8/1957, 1st Soviet rocket launch at Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

2/1/1956, The British Astronomer-Royal said the idea of space travel was �bilge�.

26/8/1952, The Soviet Union announced the first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test.

17/6/1952, Jack Parsons, rocket fuel pioneer, died.

27/3/1945. The last German V-2 rocket fell on Britain, at Orpington. (see 8/9/1944).The Allies then overran the last V-2 launching site. In all, 1,050 rockets fell on England, each carrying a ton of explosive with a range of 200 miles.The V-2s were designed by Werner von Braun, who surrendered to the Americans in 1945.Von Braun was given US citizenship and helped design the rockets for the US space programme, including the Saturn rockets and the Apollo missions.

8/9/1944, The first V-2 fell in on Chiswick in the London area, killing three people. By the end of the war, 1,100 V-2s fell in England an a further 1,675 on the continent, mainly on Antwerp.V-2 stood for Vergeltungswaffe, or �reprisal weapon�. The V-2 rocket weighed 12 tons and travelled at 3,600 mph, faster than sound, so there was no warning of its imminent arrival. It had a range of 200 miles and carried a one ton bomb. The Germans fired them from launchers in The Netherlands, but the explosions in London were attributed, by the authorities, to gas explosions to mislead the German intelligence. The earlier V-1 rocket was slower and had a shorter range; V-1 strikes on London ceased as the Allies captured the launch sites in France.

13/6/1944. The first V-1 flying bomb, or doodlebug, to hit Britain landed on a house in Southampton, killing three people.Within 24 hours, others hit London.

30/3/1926, American physicist Robert Hutchings Goddard successfully tested the world�s first liquid-propellant rocket. It reached a height of 56 metres and attained a speed of 97 kilometres per hour.

16/3/1926, US physicist Robert Goddard launched the first liquid fuel rocket, in Massachusetts. It rose to 12.5 metres.

2/10/1914, Jack Parsons, US rocket engineer, one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Aerojet in California, was born in Los Angeles (died 1952 in an explosion)

23/3/1912, Wernher von Braun, German rocket scientist, was born in Wirsitz.

1903, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) published a paper on rocket space travel using liquid propellants. On 1/5/1933 Tsioilkovsky predicted that many Soviet citizens would live to see space flight.


15/7/1943, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, astronomer, was born

23/6/1942, Lord Martin Rees of Ludlow, astronomer, was born.

8/1/1942, Stephen Hawking, astrophysicist, was born.

25/5/1939, Sir Frank Dyson, British astronomer and director of Greenwich Observatory, died.

6/3/1937, Valentino Tereshkova, Russian astronaut and first woman in space in 1963, was born.

30/12/1934, John Bahcall, astrophysicist, was born (died 17/8/2005).

9/11/1934, Carl Sagan, US astronomer, was born in New York.

9/3/1934. Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, was born near Smolensk, son of a collective farmer.

1933, Frank Zwicky and Walter Baade first theorised that supernovae might produce neutron stars

14/11/1933, Fred Haise, US astronaut, was born in Biloxi, Mississippi.

13/3/1933, Robert Thorburn Ayton Innes, Scottish astronomer, died in Surbiton, England.

30/8/1931, John Swigert, US astronaut, was born in Denver, Colorado.

17/9/1930, Thomas Stafford, US astronaut, was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma.

3/6/1930, Pete Conrad, astronaut, was born.


Distant galaxies discovered; Big Bang Theory

1929, US astronomer Edwin Hubble found that the further a galaxy was away from Earth, the more its light was red-shifted. This red-shift had first been observed in 1912 by another US astronomer, Vesto Slipher. Hubble worked out that this effect was caused by the galaxies receding from us as the Universe expands. See 1842.

1927, The Big Bang Theory was first proposed.

30/12/1924, US astronomer Edwin Hubble proved that there are galaxies beyond our Milky Way. He theorised that the red shift in the light from these distant galaxies was due to the expansion of the Universe.


10/10/1929, Irvin Shapiro was born in New York City, USA. In 1971 he researched quasars.

23/7/1928, Vera C Rubin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1973, with W Kent, she established that the Milky Way has a proper motion of around 500 km / second relative to distant galaxies.

25/3/1928, James Lovell, American astronaut, was born in Cleveland, Ohio.

23/2/1928, Vasili Lazaref, cosmonaut, was born.

25/6/1927, Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale, astronomer, was born.

3/4/1926, Virgil Grissom, third man in space, was born.

18/11/1923, Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut in space, was born in East Derry, New Hampshire.

21/10/1923, The world�s first planetarium opened, in Munich.

4/3/1923, The astronomer and broadcaster Patrick Moore was born in Pinner.

10/12/1921, Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics, for his work on Relativity.

18/7/1921, John Glenn, US astronaut and first man to orbit the Earth, was born in Cambridge, Ohio.

13/12/1920, Francis G. Pease's interferometer at Mount Wilson Observatory was the first to measure the diameter of a star other than the Sun, Betelgeuse.

12/12/1920, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, US astronomer, died in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

22/5/1920, Thomas Gold, astronomer, was born in Vienna.

30/3/1919, Scientists used a solar eclipse to confirm Einstein�s Theory of Relativity. British astronomer Arthur Edington verified Einstein�s Theory of Relativity by observing stars whose position was close to the Sun, during a solar eclipse in the South Pacific, and confirming that their apparent position had shifted due to the Sun�s gravity as the Theory predicted.

27/9.1918, Martin Ryle, English radio astronomer, was born (died 1984).

1918, Harrow Shapley discovered the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

24/6/1915, Professor Fred Hoyle, British astronomer and science fiction writer, was born.

31/8/1913, The astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell, pioneer in the field of radio astronomy was born in Gloucestershire.

7/12/1912, Sir George Howard Darwin, English astronomer, was born in Cambridge.

20/8/1912, US physicist Edward Mills Purcell was born in Taylorville, Illinois. In 1951 he was among the first to observe the 21 cm line caused by hydrogen atoms in space.

9/7/1911, John Archibald Wheeler was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He coined the term Black Hole to describe an object so massive not even light can escape.

19/10/1910, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Indian astronomer, was born in Lahore. In 1931 he predicted that white dwarf stars can only exist if their mass is below 1.4x the Sun, now known as the Chandrasekhar�s Limit.

2/10/1910, The asteroid Interamnia, seventh largest in the Solar System (300 km in diameter) was discovered by Italian astronomer Vincenzo Cerulli from an observatory in Teramo.

11/7/1909, Simon Newcomb, US astronomer, died (born 12/3/1835).

23/12/1907, Pierre Janssen, French astronomer, died (born 22/2/1824).

20/1/1907, Agnes Clerke, English astronomer, died (born 10/2/1842).

3/1/1906, William Wilson Morgan was born in Bethesda, Tennessee, USA. He first demonstrated that the Milky Way galaxy has a spiral structure, like M31.

22/10/1905, Karl Jansky was born in Norman, Oklahoma. In 1931 his experiments with an improvised radio aerial led to the birth of radio astronomy. Some radio emissions were found to be coming from the Milky Way.

12/8/1900, James Edward Keeler, US astronomer, died in San Francisco, California.

28/4/1900, Jan Oort, astronomer, was born.

14/2/1898, Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky was born in Varna, Bulgaria.

12/8/1897, Otto Struve, Russian-American astronomer, was born in Kharkov, Russia. He discovered thin clouds of dust and gas between stars, suggesting a mechanism for planet formation.

25/6/1894, Hermann Julius Oberth, designer of the V2 flying rocket bombs that plagued London at the end of World War Two, was born this day.

25/6/1892, Amedee Mouchez, French astronomer, died (born 24/8/1821).

2/1/1892, Sir George Airy, Astronomer-Royal who modernised the Greenwich Observatory, died at Alnwick, Northumberland.

1890, EC Pickering at Harvard University began to devise a classification system for stars, based on their colour and luminosity, starting with A for the white ones and working through B, C, etc. for the yellow., orange, red ones. He needed extra categories, leading to a jumbled system still used today, of WOBAFGKMRNS. One mnemonic for this is Wow O Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me Right Now Sweetie. Today we have subcategories such as A1 to A9.

1890, The Russian Astronomical Society was founded.

20/11/1889, Edwin Hiubble, astronomer, was born,

28/6/1889, Maria Mitchell, US astronomer, died (born 1/8/1818).

19/4/1889, Warren de la Rue, British astronomer, died in London.

31/12/1887, The Lick 91 centimetre refracting telescope was installed on Mount Hamilton, near San Francisco, USA. This was the world�s first mountaintop telescope.

2/11/1885, Harlow Shapley, astronomer, was born.

8/1885, The first supernova outside the Milky Way galaxy was seen, in the Andromeda �nebula� (now known to be another galaxy). At its peak it was estimated to have been 15 million times as bright as the Sun.

17/10/1883, The Ben Nevis observatory was opened.

6/8/1879, Johann von Lamont, German astronomer, died (born 13/12/1805).

14/3/1879. Albert Einstein, physicist and mathematician, was born in Ulm, Bavaria, to Jewish parents.

23/9/1877, Urbain Leverrier, French astronomer, died in Paris.

17/2/1875, Friedrich Argelander, German astronomer, died 17/2/1875 in Bonn (born 22/3/1799 in Memel).

28/3/1874, Peter Hansen, Danish astronomer, died (born 8/12/1795).

20/9/1873, Battista Donati, Italian astronomer, died (born 16/12/1826).

11/5/1871, Sir John Frederick Herschel, English astronomer, died at Collingwood, Hawkhurst, Kent.

8/1/1868, Sir Frank Dyson, British astronomer, was born in Measham, then in Derbyshire.

26/8/1865, Johann Encke, German astronomer, died (born 23/9/1791).

31/12/1864, Robert Aitken, US astronomer (died 29/10/1951) was born.

11/12/1863, Astronomer Annie Jump Cannon was born in Dover, Delaware, USA. Her work formed the basis if the Henry Draper catalogue of 225,300 stars.

21/6/1863, Maximilian Wolf, German astronomer, was born in Heidelberg.

10/4/1863, Giovanni Battista Amici, Italian astronomer, died in Florence (born 25/3/1786 in Modena).

30/10/1862, Ormsby Mitchel, US astronomer, died.

10/11/1861, Robert Innes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1915 he discovered a faint companion to the double star Alpha Centauri. This faint star is, apart from the Sun, the nearest star to earth, so it is called Proxima Centauri.

27/1/1860, Sir Thomas Brisbane, Scottish astronomer, died (born 23/7/1773).

2/6/1858, G B Donati, Italian astronomer, discovered the comet now named after him.

17/9/1857, Russian physicist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was born in Izhevsk. In 1895 he proposed the use of liquid-fuelled rockets to propel vehicles into space.

13/3/1855, Percival Lowell, US astronomer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

9/1/1848, Caroline Herschel, English astronomer, died (born 16/3/1750).

17/3/1846, Friedrich Bessel, German astronomer, died in Konigsberg (born in Minden 22/7/1784).

30/8/1844, Edward Baily, British astronomer, died in London on 30/8/1844. He was born in Newbury, Berkshire, 10/3/1788.

1842, Christian Doppler amounted, in Prague, the Doppler Effect; that motion changed the wavelength of light. This principle is used to determine the velocity of stars relative to Earth. The hypothesis was tested for sound waves by Buys Ballot in 1845. See 1929.

10/2/1842, Agnes Clerke, English astronomer, was born (died 20/1/1907).

9/9/1839, Astronomer John Herschel took the first astronomical plate glass photograph. He pioneered the development of this method of astronomy.

1838, German astronomer Friedrich Bessel announced the first calculation of a distance from Earth to another star. He used triangulation from two different points in the Earth�s orbit to measure the apparent change in position of the star, 61 Cygni, and came up with 10.3 light years (modern figure 11.08 L Y). Another astronomer, the Englishman Thomas Henderson, had also made calculations of the distance to Alpha Centauri, and announced these the following year.

12/3/1835, Simon Newcomb, US astronomer, was born (died 11/7/1909).

10/7/1832, Alvan Clark, astronomer, was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, USA. In 1862 he observed for the first time the star Sirius B, now known to be a white dwarf.

28/2/1831, Edward James Stone, British astronomer, was born (died 9/5/1897).

1826, Heinrich Olbers formulated Olber�s Paradox; if stars are evenly distributed through infinite space, why is the sky dark? Modern theories of an expanding universe have solved this paradox.

16/12/1826, Battista Donati, Italian astronomer, was born (died 20/9/1873).

23/11/1826, Johann Bode, German astronomer, died in Berlin (born in Hamburg 19/1/1747).

16/5/1826, Richard Carrington, astronomer, was born (died 27/11/1875).

27/9/1824, Benjamin Gould, astronomer, was born (died 26/11/1896).

22/2/1824, Pierre Janssen, French astronomer, was born (died 23/12/1907).

7/2/1824, Sir William Huggins, English astronomer, was born (died 12/5/1910).

1823, An observatory was built on Ben Nevis, Scotland, to study sun-spots.

18/11/1821, Franz Brunnow, German astronomer, was born (died 20/8/1891).

24/8/1821, Amedee Mouchez, French astronomer, was born (died 25/6/1892).

1/8/1818, Maria Mitchell, US astronomer, was born (died 28/6/1889).

12/4/1817, Charles Messier, French astronomer who made a list of nebulae known as the Messier catalogue, died.

17/6/1814, Robert Grant, British astronomer, was born (died 24/10/1892).

9/2/1811, Nevil Maskelyne, English astronomer, died (born 6/10/1732).

4/4/1807, Joseph Lalande, French astronomer, died (born 11/7/1732).

13/12/1805, Johann von Lamont, German astronomer, was born (died 6/8/1879).

5/4/1804, The High Possil meteorite strike, near Glasgow, Scotland. This was the first meteorite strike to be both witnessed and scientifically investigated.

1801, French astronomer Joseph Lalande published a catalogue of the 47,390 known stars.

27/7/1801, Sir George Airy, British astronomer, was born in Alnwick (died 2/1/1892 in Greenwich, London).

31/5/1799, Pierre Lemonnier, French astronomer, died (born 23/11/1715).

22/3/1799, Friedrich Argelander, German astronomer, was born in Memel (died 17/2/1875 in Bonn).

28/12/1798, Thomas Henderson was born in Dundee, Scotland. In 1839 he measured the parallax of Alpha-Centauri, making it the second star after the Sun whose distance is known.

16/12/1796, Johann Titius, astronomer, died in Wittemberg.

8/12/1795, Peter Hansen, Danish astronomer, was born (died 28/3/1874).

15/6/1795, Richard Morrison, English astronomer, was born (died 5/4/1874).

12/11/1792, Jean Bailly,astronomer, was guillotined 12/11/1793 (born 15/9/1736).

14/4/1792, Maximlian Hell, astronomer, died.

7/3/1792. Sir John Herschel, the astronomer who mapped the stars of the southern hemisphere, was born in Slough.

23/9/1791, Johann Encke, German astronomer, was born (died 26/8/1865).

13/12/1787, Mathematician, physicist and astronomer Ruggiero Guiseppe Boscovich died in Milan.

25/3/1786, Giovanni Battista Amici, Italian astronomer, was born in Modena (died 10/4/1863 in Florence).

25/2/1786, Thomas Wright, astronomer, died at Byers Green, England.

1784, English geologist John Michell (1724-93) first proposed that stars could exist that were so massive not even light could escape from them. He called these �dark stars�. See 1968.

22/7/1784, Friedrich Bessel, German astronomer, was born in Minden (died in Konigsberg 17/3/1846).

16/4/1783, Christian Mayer, astronomer, died.

28/4/1774, Edward Baily, British astronomer, was born in Newbury, Berkshire. He died in London on 30/8/1844.

4/3/1774, William Herschel first sighted the Orion nebula.

23/7/1773, Sir Thomas Brisbane, Scottish astronomer, was born (died 27/1/1860).

1772, Johann Daniel Titus first formulated what is now known as Bode�s Law; that the ratio of the distance of the inner planets form the Sun is given by the series 0, 3, 6, 12, 24�with 4 added to each term.

12/9/1768, Joseph Delisle, French astronomer, died (born 4/4/1688).

13/7/1762, James Bradley, English astronomer, died (born in Gloucestershire 15/3/1711).

21/3/1762, Nicolas Lacaille, French astronomer, died (born 15/3/1713).

20/2/1762, Johann Mayer, German astronomer, died.

23/9/1761, German astronomer Jean Louis Pons was born in Hamburg.

1760, German physicist Johann Lambert (born in Mulhause, 26/8/1728) first used the term albedo (whiteness) for the differing reflectivity of planetary bodies.

18/4/1756, Jacques Cassini, astronomer, died (born 8/2/1677).

1750, English astronomer Thomas Wright (1711-86) first proposed that the Milky Way was a collection of stars like the Sun.

16/3/1750, Caroline Herschel, English astronomer, was born (died 9/1/1848).

19/9/1749, Jean Delambre, French astronomer, was born (died 19/8/1822).

28/3/1749, Pierre Laplace, French astronomer, was born (died 5/3/1827)

19/1/1747, Johann Bode, German astronomer, was born in Hamburg (died in Berlin 23/11/1826).

14/1/1742, Astronomer-Royal Edmond Halley died at Greenwich aged 85.

15/9/1736, Jean Bailly,astronomer, was born in Paris (guillotined 12/11/1793).

6/10/1732, Nevil Maskelyne, English astronomer, was born (died 9/2/1811).

11/7/1732, Joseph Lalande, French astronomer, was born (died 4/4/1807).

2/3/1729, Francesco Bianchini, Italian astronomer, died in Rome (born in Verona 13/12/1662).

1728, Aberration of starlight, the apparent displacement of stars and their change of colour, as the Earth orbits the Sun, was discovered by James Bradley.

12/9/1725, Guillaume le Gentil, astronomer, was born.

31/12/1719, John Flamsteed, first Astronomer-Royal, , died. His catalogue of stars for ship�s navigators was still incomplete after 40 years of work.

23/11/1715, Pierre Lemonnier, French astronomer, was born (died 31/5/1799).

15/3/1713, Nicolas Lacaille, French astronomer, was born (died 21/3/1762).

11/9/1712, Giovanni Cassini astronomer, died (born 8/6/1625).

15/3/1711, James Bradley, English astronomer, was born in Gloucestershire (died13/7/1762).

19/9/1710, Ole Romer, astronomer, died.

10/10/1708, Scottish astronomer and mathematician David Gregory died in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

1705, Edmund Halley, English astronomer (1656-1742), calculated the orbital period of the comet named after him. He correctly predicted its return in 1758.

1668, Isaac Newton built the first reflecting telescope.

4/4/1688, Joseph Delisle, French astronomer, was born (died 12/9/1768).

10/12/1684, Isaac Newton�s derivation of Kepler�s Laws of Gravity was read in a paper to The Royal Society by Edmund Halley.

12/7/1682, Death of Jean Picard, astronomer who first calculated the circumference of the Earth.

8/2/1677, Jacques Cassini, astronomer, was born (died 18/4/1756).

10/8/1675, Charles II established Greenwich Observatory, at Flamsteed House, Greenwich.Its foundation stone was laid this day.

4/3/1675, Charles II appointed John Flamsteed as the first Astronomer-Royal.

2/1669, Isaac Newton first described his reflecting telescope in a letter to Henry Oldenburg (1619-77), first Secretary of the Royal Society.

24/8/1664, Maria Cunitz, Silesian astronomer, died.

13/12/1662, Francesco Bianchini, Italian astronomer, was born in Verona (died in Rome 2/3/1729).

19/8/1646, John Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, was born in Denby, near Derby.

25/12/1642, Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, the son of a farmer.

8/1/1642, Galileo, Italian mathematician physicist and astronomer, professor at the University of Padua, died.

3/1/1641, Jeremiah Horrocks, English astronomer, died (born 1619).

24/11/1639, A transit of Venus across the Sun was first observed by Jeremiah Horrocks.

1638, The first variable star was identified as such by Dutch astronomer Phocyclides. The star, Mir Ceta, had earlier been observed fading from view by David Fabricius in 1596.

6/11/1638, James Gregory, Scottish mathematician who gave a demonstration of the first practical reflecting telescope, was born.

6/9/1635, Metius, astronomer and mathematician, died.

12/4/1633, The trial of Galileo Galilei before the Inquisition began. At the end of which he would be ordered to recant his belief that the Sun not the Earth was the centre of the Universe, as heretical.


Johannes Kepler

15/11/1630, Johannes Kepler, astronomer, died in Regensburg, Germany.

1627, German astronomer, Kepler, catalogued the position of 1,005 stars.

30/10/1613, Astronomer Johannes Kepler married his 2nd wife, Susanna Reuttinger.

17/10/1604, Johannes Kepler observed a supernova.

24/10/1601, Johannes Kepler succeeded Tycho Brahe as imperial mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II.

4/2/1600, Astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe met for the first time, near Prague.

27/4/1597, Johannes Kepler, astronomer, married widow Barbara Muller.

27/12/1571, Johannes Kepler, astronomer, was born. He discovered that planets have elliptical orbits


Tycho Brahe

24/10/1601, Tycho Brahe, Danish Royal Astronomer, died in Benatky, near Prague, Czechoslovakia.

1577, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe catalogued 777 stars. Tycho�s comet first observed.

11/11/1572, Astronomer Tycho Brahe saw a �new star�, a supernova, in the constellation of Cassiopeia. The fixed stars were meant to be eternal, unchanging. Along with Copernicus� assertion that the Sun, not the earth, is the centre of the Universe, this undermined traditional church cosmology.

14/12/1546, Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer and mathematician, was born in Knudstrup.


14/4/1629, Christiaan Huygens, Dutch astronomer, was born (died 8/6/1695).

8/6/1625, Giovanni Cassini astronomer, was born (died 11/9/1712).

21/7/1620, Jean Picard, astronomer, was born

26/2/1616. The Church ordered Galileo to abandon his theory that the Sun, not the Earth, is the centre of the Universe.

28/1/1611, Johann Hevelius, German astronomer, was born (died 28/1/1687)

1609, Galileo made several key observations and deductions with the newly-invented �optical tube� or telescope. He observed the landscape of the Moon, and noted how the dark portion was faintly lit, by light reflected from Earth. He observed four smaller bodies near Jupiter, and noted how these orbited Jupiter, proving the Earth-Moon system was not an anomaly. He saw the planets as discs, but the stars remained pinpoints of light, suggesting they were much further away, He observed the movement of sunspots across the Sun, proving that it too rotated. Perhaps most significantly he saw how the planet Venus was much smaller, further away, when its full disc was visible but larger when it became a crescent, showing that it too orbited the Sun. It was this observation, that bodies orbited the Sun, not the Earth, that the Church strongly objected to.

2/10/1608, Dutch lensmaker Jan Lippershey first demonstrated the telescope. It was initially known as a �Dutch Trunke�; the word �telescope� was not coined for several more years.

1/9/1600, Tadeus Hajek, astronomer, died.

17/2/1600, Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake, for the heresy of suggesting that the stars were distant suns, possibly with their own planets.

8/8/1576, The first purpose-built observatory was constructed in Denmark.

20/1/1573, Simon Marius was born in Gunzenhausen, Germany. He was the first astronomer to mention Andromeda.

15/2/1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy.

24/5/1543. The Polish astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus died of apoplexy.Born on 19/2/1473, in Torun, Poland, Copernicus is regarded as the founder of modern astronomy.When his father died, Copernicus� uncle Lucas Waczenrode became his guardian.In 1491 Copernicus went to the University of Krakow to study Latin, mathematics, astronomy, geography, and philosophy.He returned home after 4 years without a degree, and studied Canon Law at the University of Bologna so as to have a church career. From a turret on the walls of Bologna Cathedral, Copernicus studied the stars, and in 1530 produced a 400 page treatise, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres). This put forward the idea that the earth rotated on its own axis daily and annually around the Sun. It was published in the year of his death, 1543, and greeted with a hostile reception as it challenged the ancient teaching that the Earth was the centre of the Universe.

1491, Copernicus studied at Cracow University.

19/2/1473, Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer, was born in Torun, Poland.

1420, The Mongol ruler Ulugh Beg established a large observatory at Samarkand, probably inspired by earlier Muslim observatories such as the one at Maragha, Azerbaijan. The Samarkand observatory was much larger than its predecessors. Ulugh Beg completed a large star catalogue in 1439. However this work was destroyed by his son Adballatif after Ulugh Beg was murdered in 1449, because Adballatif had been exiled on the advice of astrologers.

1259, Nasreddin (1201-74), ruler of Iran, completed his observatory at Maragha. It had a staff of 15 and a library of 400,000 books, and observational enabled Nasreddin to compile accurate tables of planetary motion.

1232, First recorded use of rockets, by the Chinese military against the Mongols.

1092, In China, Su Sung built a �cosmic engine�; an apparatus showing the changing position of celestial objects in the sky.

1080, Arzachel, Arab astronomer, suggested that planetary orbits were elliptical.

4/7/1054, Chinese astronomers recorded a supernova so bright it could be seen in daylight for 23 days and at night for almost 2 years. This now forms the Crab nebula.

964, Al-Sufi published an illustrated text, the Book of Fixed Stars.

813, A school of astronomy opened in Baghdad.
517, Aryabhata wrote a manual of astronomy.

Ca. 120 BCE, Hipparchus of Nicaea died (born ca. 190 BCE). He calculated the distance from the Earth to the Moon, as 238,600 miles (384,000 km).

Ca. 230 BCE, Death of Aristarchus (born ca. 310 BCE). He was one of the first to assert that neither the Earth nor the Sun were the centre of the Universe � a principle rediscovered by Copernicus nearly 2,000 years later. Aristarchus observed the shadow of the Earth on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, and calculated that the Earth was 3x the diameter of the Moon.

240 BCE, The Greek astronomer Eratosthenes (276 � 194 BCE) calculated the circumference of the Earth. He noticed that the Sun cast no shadow in Aswan, Egypt, but in the same day of the year in Alexandria, 800km further north, it was 7 degrees off vertical. From this Eratosthenes calculated the Earth�s circumference as around 40,000 km. This is very close to the true figure of 40,007 km, through the Poles. He also suggested that the Earth moved around the Sun. However Claudius Ptolemy (87-150) believed the Earth to be at the centre of the Universe; it was this Ptolemaic view that prevailed in Church thinking right down to the time of Copernicus.

352 BCE, First recorded sighting of a supernova, by the Chinese.

375 BCE, Democritus of Greece first recognised that the Milky Way is composed of stars like the Sun.

385 BCE, The Greek astronomer, Heracleides, became the first person to suggest that the planets Venus and Mercury orbited the Sun.

435 BCE, The Metonic Cycle, about 19 years, was discovered by Metos of Athens. It is a multiple of the lunar and solar calendars, can predict eclipses, and forms the basis of the Greek and Jewish calendars.

472 BCE, Pythagoras was born. He provided the first scientific proof that the Earth is round; the star Canopus could be seen at Alexandria, Egypt, but not further north in Athens, Greece; also the shadow of the Earth on the Moon in a lunar eclipse was curved, so the Earth must also be curved.

6/4/648 BCE, First solar eclipse recorded by the ancient Greeks.

1775 BCE, The Babylonians, under Hammurabi, compiled star charts and records of planetary motions.


Asteroid and Meteor exploration

19/10/2017, Rob Weryk of the University of Hawaii first spotted an asteroid-like object that, from its speed and trajectory, appeared to have originated from outside the Solar System.

6/9/2014, A small meteorite landed in woods near Managua, Nicaragua, leaving a crater 5 metres deep and 24 metres across.

15/2/2013, A large meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia; 1,491 were injured and over 4,000 buildings damaged.

28/10/1991, The American Galileo spacecraft made a close approach to 951 Gaspra, becoming the first space probe to visit an asteroid.

27/10/1973, The Canon City meteorite, a 1.4kg chondrite, fell in Fremont County, Colorado, USA.,

8/2/1969, A large meteorite scattered several tons of material over a large area of Chihuahua Province, Mexico. It was named the Allende meteorite, after the nearest village to the impact point.

24/12/1965, A cluster of meteorites fell in the Barwell, Leicestershire, UK area after a brilliant fireball. The original meteorite is estimated to have weighed around 200 lbs.

30/10/1937. The 500,000 ton asteroid Hermes missed the earth by 485,000 miles.

13/7/1908, An explosion 1,000 x greater than Hiroshima flattened 80 million trees over 800 square miles near the River Tungaska, Siberia.It is thought to have been a meteor or comet.

1898, The asteroid Eros, was discovered. It is of irregular shape, 4 miles wide but 1`5 miles long.

1859, Asteroid Metis was first observed.

1847, Asteroids Iris and Flora were discovered by John Russell Hind.

1845, Asteroid Astraea was first observed by Karl Hencke. Within 2 years he had also discovered asteroid Hebe.

1807, Asteroid Vesta was first observed by Heinrich Olbers.

1/9/1804, The asteroid Juno was discovered by Professor Harding, an assistant of Heinrich Olbers.

19/4/1803, Near the village of L�agle, France, a ball of fire in the sky caused a noise like thunder, and then stones fell from the sky, fast enough to bury themselves in the ground. The largest stone weighed 17.5 lbs.Jean Baptiste Piot, born Paris 21/4/1774, studied these meteorites and concluded they were extra-terrestrial in origin.

3/1802, Asteroid Pallas was first observed by Heinrich Olbers.

1/1/1801, Guiseppe Piazzi at Palermo, Italy discovered Ceres, diameter 427 miles, the largest of the minor planets. He named it after the patron saint of Sicily.


Comet exploration

12/11/2014,The Philae Lander touched down onto a comet, 320 million miles from Earth; the first such landing accomplished. Although the craft bounced and ended up partially shaded from the Sun, useful data was returned until the probe finally �died� on 9/7/2015.

23/3/1997, Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth, 196 million km away.

15/8/1977, Radio astronomers at Ohio State University picked up a powerful radio burst at 1420 Megahertz. This was thought to be a frequency at which intelligent aliens might broadcast as it is a significant radio absorption and emission frequency of hydrogen atoms. It was dubbed the �Wow� signal after the comment scribbled on the radio transcript document by Jerry Ehman. In 2016 astronomers decided it might have been from passing comets.

18/5/1910. The Earth passed through the tail of Halley�s Comet; some people feared disaster.

21/10/1909, Halley�s Comet was sighted from Cambridge Observatory, UK.

11/9/1909, Halley�s Comet was first observed, at Heidelberg.

5/11/1906, Fred Lawrence Whipple was born in Red Oak, Indiana. In 1949 he suggested that comets are �dirty snowballs� consisting of water ice and ammonia ice with rock dust.

8/11/1656. Edmond Halley, who discovered Halley�s comet, was born in London. He was the first to realise that comets do not appear at random, but have predictable orbits.

635, The Chinese observed that the tail of a comet always points away from the Sun.

240 BCE, Halley�s comet was first observed (periodicity 76.1 years)


Jupiter exploration

27/8/2016, The NASA space probe Juno successfully skimmed the planet Jupiter, the start of an 18-month mission to gather data on the planet.

5/7/2016, The space probe Juno entered polar orbit around Jupiter.

5/8/2011, The Juno space probe was launched towards Jupiter.

21/9/2003. The Galileo space probe ended its mission with a plunge into Jupiter�s atmosphere.

15/10/2001, The Galileo spacecraft came to within 180 km of Jupiter�s moon, Io.

2/3/1998, Data sent from the Galileo probe indicated that Jupiter�s Moon Europa had an ocean of liquid water beneath a frozen crust of ice.

7/12/1995, The space probe Galileo entered orbit around Jupiter, and sent a probe into the planet�s atmosphere.

18/7/1994, Fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy were observed by the Hubble telescope crashing into Jupiter.

4/3/1979, Voyager 1 photographed Jupiter�s rings, approaching within 290,000 kilometres of the planet on 5/3/1979.

20/8/1977. The Voyager I space craft was launched on a journey via Jupiter and Saturn, later to become the first man-made object to leave the solar system.

3/12/1973, The Pioneer 10 spacecraft captured the first close-up images of Jupiter,

6/4/1973, The space probe Pioneer 11 was launched. Passing Jupiter a year after Pioneer 10 it continued on to Saturn, which it reached in 1979.

3/3/1972, The space probe Pioneer 10 was launched. It became the first probe to cross the asteroid belt, crossing it between July 1972 and February 1973. It arrived at Jupiter in December 1973. It has now left the solar system and is predicted to reach the red star Aldebaran in 2 million years� time.

25/3/1923, Kenneth Lynn Franklin was born in Alameda, California. In 1955 he and Burke detected radio emissions from Jupiter.

1878, The Great Red Spot became prominent, darkening from pale pink to brick red across an area 7,000 by 30,000 miles. Schwabe had noted the spot in 1831, and Hooke had seen it back in 1664.

1671, Csssini discovered Iapetus, a satellite of Jupiter.

1664, Robert Hooke first noted Jupiter�s Great Red Spot, also discovering the rotation of Jupiter.

17/5/1630, The belts of the planet Jupiter were first observed.

7/1/1610, Galileo first observed four of the moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto).


Mars exploration

14/5/2021, China landed its first probe on Mars.

19/4/2021, The first controlled flight on another planet was achieved by NASA when it flew a remote-controlled 1.8 kg helicopter on Mars.

6/8/2012, Curiosity, the US space probe, successfully landed on Mars.

26/11/2011, The US launched its probe Curiosity towards Mars.

25/5/2008, NASA successfully landed a probe on the north polar regions of Mars.

29/9/2006, The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took its first low-orbit, high-resolution pictures of Mars

23/1/2004, The Mars Express space probe found evidence of frozen water at Mars� south pole.

28/10/2003, A solar flare put the radiation sensor on the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft out of action. It had been intended to measure the radiation hazard to any future human colonists on Mars.

4/1/2004, Nasa landed a robotic space probe on Mars.

25/12/2003, The British-built Beagle2 space probe went silent and vanished, just before its scheduled landing on Mars.

10/6/2003, The Mars Spirit Rover p[robe was launched. It reached Mars after 6 months, and collected valuable geological data, also suggesting the presence of water.

19/2/2002, NASA�s Mars Odyssey probe began to map the surface of Mars.

24/10/2001, The 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft reached Mars and went into orbit.

7/4/2001, The 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft was launched from the Kennedy Space centre.

3/12/1999, NASA lost contact with the probe Mars Polar Lander at it attempted to touch down at the south pole of Mars.

23/9/1999, NASA lost contact with its Mars probe Climate Orbiter.

3/1/1999, The USA launched the MPL probe, to investigate the surface of Mars.

11/12/1998, The Mars Climate Orbiter was launched from Cape Canaveral; the craft was later lost because one team was using metric and another using imperial measurements.

27/9/1997, The Pathfinder probe on Mars ceased functioning, after 2 months on the planet�s surface.

4/7/1997, NASA�s Pathfinder probe landed on the surface of Mars.

4/12/1996,NASA launched the Pathfinder probe towards Mars.

7/11/1996, The USA launched the MGS (Mars Global Survey) space probe.

7/7/1988, The first of two Soviet probes was sent to study Phobos, a moon of Mars. The second probe was launched on 12/1/1988. Later, Phobos I was accidentally sent a �suicide� instruction.

12/1/1988, The USSR launched Phobos-2, to rendezvous with the Martian moon, Phobos.

3/9/1976. The US spacecraft Viking 2 landed on Mars after a journey lasting 359 days. It landed in the Utopia Planitia region and broadcast back the first colour pictures of the planet.

7/8/1976. The Viking 2 probe entered orbit around Mars.

20/7/1976. The US spacecraft Viking I landed on Mars after an 11-month journey from Earth. On 31/7/1976 NASA released the famous �face on Mars� photograph.

20/8/1975, NASA launched the Viking I probe towards Mars.

27/11/1971, The Soviet space probe Mars 2 went into orbit round Mars, just days after the US probe Mariner 9 arrived there.

13/11/1971, Mariner 9 went into orbit around Mars, the first man-made object to orbit another planet. Initially dust storms obscured any view, but eventually the spacecraft returned 7,329 pictures of the planet�s surface.

30/5/1971, Mariner 9 was launched by the US at Cape Kennedy on a mission to Mars.

25/2/1969, Mariner 6 was launched from Cape Canaveral, to fly by Mars.

15/7/1965, Mariner 4 flew by Mars, returning images of the planet�s surface. It revealed that Mars was covered with impact craters, demonstrating a lack of geological activity. A measurement of the changes in radio transmissions as the signals passed through the Martian atmosphere also showed that surface pressure was 94% less than had been predicted, at about 1% of Earth sea level pressure and was mostly carbon dioxide and that the Martian ice caps were actually frozen CO2.

28/11/1964, Mariner 4 was launched; 228 days later it passed within 9,700 kilometres of Mars.

1963, The space probe Mars I orbited Mars.

1877, Schiaparelli drew a map of Mars; he assumed the dark areas were sea, the ochre area was desert and the white areas were water ice caps. By 1900 it was known that the Martian atmosphere was far too thin for open water to exist; the dark areas were presumed to be vegetation, perhaps moss or lichen, since it was also known that Mars is very cold.

11/8/1877, The two small moons of Mars (Phobos, Deimos) were first seen by US astronomer Asaph Hall.

1671, Cassini calculated the distance from Earth to Mars. From this he deduced the distances of all the planets from the Sun.


Mercury exploration

29/3/1974. The US spacecraft Mariner 10 sent back the first photos of the planet Mercury.

3/11/1973, The USA launched the Mariner-10 space probe. It made 1 flyby of Venus then 3 flybys of Mercury.

7/11/1631, Pierre Gassendi observed the transit of Mercury across the Sun.This was the first observation of a planetary transit.

1881, Schiaparelli (1835 � 1910) began a series of observations of the surface features of Mercury. He calculated its rotational period (day) as 88 days; it is now known to be 59 days. This is two-thirds of a Mercury year,


Moon exploration

23/11/2020, China launched its Chang�e 5 probe towards the Moon.

21/2/2019, An Israeli company launched the Beresheet probe towards the Moon

7/12/2018, China launched its Chang�e 4 probe towards the Moon; landed there 3/1/2019.

1/12/2013, China launched the Chang�e 3 probe towards the moon, with the lunar rover Yutu.

18/6/2009, The US Moon probe LCross was launched, It discovered water on the Moon.

22/10/2008, India launched its probe Chandrayaan 1 towards the Moon.

24/10/2007, China launched its first space probe, Chang�e 1, towards the Moon.

14/9/2007, Japan launched its Kaguya probe towards the Moon

14/1/2004, US President Bush announced a proposal to establish a permanent manned base on the Moon by 2020, to act as a staging post for manned missions to Mars by 2030. The cost was estimated at between US$ 300 and 500 billion.

27/9/2003, The first European Moon probe, SMART-1, was launched towards the Moon.

5/3/1998, The NASA Satellite Lunar Prospector discovered ice beneath the lunar surface at the South Pole.

6/1/1998, The USA launched the Lunar Prospector space probe, to map the lunar surface.

24/1/1990, Japan sent the first probe to the Moon since 1976. It placed a small satellite in lunar orbit.

9/8/1976, Russia launched the Luna 24 probe towards the Moon

28/10/1974, Russia launched the Luna 23 probe towards the Moon.

8/1/1973. Russia launched the Luna 21 probe towards the Moon

7/12/1972, The US spacecraft Apollo 17 was launched, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Dr Harrison Schmitt.Cernan and Schmitt made the 6th Moon landing.

20/4/1972. Apollo 16 landed on the Moon.

16/4/1972, Apollo 16 was launched with John Young, Charles Duke, and Thomas Mattingley. Young and Duke made the 5th Moon landing.

14/2/1972, Russia launched the Luna 20 probe towards the Moon.

5/2/1971. US spacecraft Apollo 14, launched on 31/1/1971, landed on the Moon. Mitchell. Shephard and Mitchell made the 3rd Moon landing.

31/1/1971, The US spacecraft, Apollo 14, the third mission to the Moon, was launched with a three-man crew. On board were Alan Shephard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar

17/11/1970. The unmanned Russian spacecraft Luna 17 landed on the Moon and released the first moon walker vehicle.


Apollo 13 � Disaster averted

17/4/1970, The Apollo 13 astronauts were rescued after their craft failed 200,000 miles from Earth and they had to navigate back home by the Sun. They crashed into the Pacific Ocean and were picked up by the US Navy. Apollo 13 was launched on 11/4/1970. An oxygen tank in the service module exploded, destroying both oxygen tanks and blowing the side off the service module; this was later determined by NASA to have been caused by wires in a fan thermostat having been tested at too high a voltage, burning off the insulation and causing a short circuit when the fan was activated. There was now insufficient oxygen for both power and breathing.The three astronauts retreated to the lunar module, designed only for two people, and shut down the main module until required for the Earth landing. Having reported the famous words �Houston we have a problem� the astronauts had no option but to continue out to orbit the Moon, being out of Earth contact for a period, until returning home.

11/4/1970, The US spacecraft Apollo 13 was launched.


14/11/1969. The US launched Apollo 12, crewed by Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean.Conrad and Bean made the 2nd Moon landing on 19/11/1969.

13/7/1969, Russia launched the Luna 15 probe towards the Moon.


Apollo 11 � First Moon landing achieved

24/7/1969, The Apollo 11 astronauts returned successfully to earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

22/7/1969, Apollo 11 left the Moon.

20/7/1969. Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon. He said, as he emerged from the Eagle lunar module, �One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind�.The Eagle had separated from the Apollo 11 spacecraft.�� See 7/10/1968 and 19/11/1969. The Apollo 11 mission had launched from Cape Canaveral on 16/7/1969.


24/12/1968, The Apollo 8 astronauts became the first humans to orbit the Moon, flying 110 km above its surface.

21/12/1968. The first flight of a man around the Moon, when Apollo 8 was launched.It was crewed by Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders.

14/9/1968, The USSR launched the Zond-5 spacecraft, which carried animals around the Moon.

9/1/1968, The space probe Surveyor 7 landed near the lunar crater Tycho.

7/1/1968, Sunday (+8,279) NASA launched the Surveyor 7 probe towards the Moon.

9/11/1967, US space probe Surveyor VI soft-landed on the Moon.

4/5/1967, Thursday (+8,031) NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 4 probe towards the Moon. It took the first photographs of the lunar south pole before crashing.

17/4/1967, NASA launched the Surveyor 3 probe towards the Moon

13/12/1966, Russia launched the Luna 13 probe towards the Moon.

6/11/1966, NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 2 probe towards the Moon

20/9/1966, NASA launched the Surveyor 2 probe towards the Moon

10/8/1966, America�s first Moon satellite, Orbiter 1, was launched.

2/6/1966. The US unmanned spacecraft Surveyor 1 made the first soft landing on the Moon.

30/5/1966, NASA launched the Surveyor 1 probe towards the Moon

3/2/1966, The Soviet unmanned spacecraft, Luna 9 made the first soft landing on the Moon.

15/12/1965, US astronauts achieved the first rendezvous of twchedo vehicles in space. Gemini 6, crewed by Walter P Shirra and Thomas P Stafford, met alongside Gemini 7, crewed by Frank Borman and James A Lovell. The two craft then orbited together, about 3 metres apart, completing two earth orbits at an altitude of 315 kilometres. This exercise was vital in planning the manned lunar programme, where a lunar module would detach from the command ship to land on the Moon, then rejoin the main ship to return to Earth.

3/12/1965, Russia launched the Luna 8 probe towards the Moon

13/5/1965, The Russian Luna 5 space probe, intended to explore the possibility of landing safely on the Moon, malfunctioned and crashed onto its surface.

9/5/1965, Russia launched the Luna 5 probe towards the Moon

21/3/1965, NASA launched the lunar probe Ranger 9 towards the Moon

17/2/1965, Lunar probe Ranger 8 was launched from Cape Canaveral. The photographs it transmitted would help select landing sites for future Apollo missions.

31/7/1964, NASA succeeded in landing the Ranger 7 probe on the Moon.

28/7/1964, NASA launched the Ranger 7 probe towards the Moon

26/10/1963, Khrushchev said the USSR would not race the US to get a man on the Moon.

13/11/1962. America launched its biggest rocket yet, the Saturn booster, in its effort to reach the Moon.

9/9/1962. President Kennedy called for the USA to launch a full speed drive for the Moon and first place in space over Russia, so that space will be an area of peace and not a terrifying theatre of war.

27/1/1962, An unmanned US craft passed within 20,000 miles of the moon.

7/10/1959, The first photographs of the far side of the Moon were transmitted by the Russian spacecraft Lunik III.

14/9/1959, The first man-made object landed on the Moon; the Russian space probe Luna II, near the Mare Serenitatis.

12/9/1959, Russia launched the lunar probe Luna II.

2/1/1959, The Russians launched Luna 1, the first rocket to pass near the Moon, from Tyuratam.

14/3/1934, Eugene Cernan, one of the sixth pair of US astronauts to land on the Moon, was born in Chicago, Illinois.

31/10/1930, Michael Collins, US astronaut who piloted the command module during the first Moon landing, was born in Rome, Italy.

24/9/1930, John Young, US astronaut, whose spacecraft made the 5th landing on the Moon, was born in San Francisco, California.

5/8/1930. Birth of US astronaut Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

2/6/1930, Charles Conrad, American astronaut whose spacecraft made the second landing on the Moon, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

11/4/1930. US scientists predicted that man would have landed on the Moon by 2050.

20/1/1930. Edwin �Buzz� Aldrin, second man on the Moon, was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey.


4/5/1783, Astronomer William Herschel reported seeing a red glow near the lunar crater Aristarchus.

1679, Cassini published a map of the Moon.

30/11/1609, In Padua, Galileo, using his newly invented telescope, made detailed drawings of the Moon, noting the irregularities on its surface.

18/6/1178, A violent explosion was seen on the face of the Moon. Later, astronomers calculated this may have been the meteor that created the crater known as Giordano Bruno.


Neptune exploration

1989, Proteus, moon of Neptune, was first observed.

25/8/1989. Voyager 2 sent back pictures of Neptune and its moon, Triton, flying within 5,000 kilometres of the planet.

1949, Nereid, moon of Neptune, was first observed.

10/7/1910, Johann Galle, German astronomer who made the first observation of the planet Neptune, died.

21/1/1892, John Couch Adams, English astronomer associated with the discovery of the planet Neptune, died.

10/1846, Triton, moon of Neptune, was first observed.

23/9/1846, German astronomer Johann Galle discovered the planet Neptune.This followed predictions made by Leverrier and Adams.

1828, The planet Uranus was found to have deviated so much from its predicted position that the search for another planet began; this led to the discovery of Neptune in 1846.

1822, Alexis Boulevard (born Contamines, France, 27/6/1767) examined observations of the planet Uranus and found they did not agree. This information was used to deduce the existence of a further planet, Neptune.

5/6/1819, John Couch Adams, who co-discovered Neptune, was born near Launceston, Cornwall.

28/1/1613, Galileo noted the undiscovered planet Neptune but failed to realise what it was. Neptune was officially discovered 233 years later by John Couch Adams.


Pluto exploration

14/7/2015, The space probe New Horizons reached Pluto.

24/8/2006, Pluto was officially demoted from �planet� to �dwarf planet� by the International Astronomical Union,

19/1/2006, The New Horizons space probe was launched towards Pluto.

1980, A thin atmosphere was discovered on Pluto.

22/6/1978, Charon, a satellite of Pluto, was discovered.

13/3/1930, The discovery of Pluto was announced this day.

18/2/1930. American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto from a series of pictures taken during the previous month at the Lowell Observatory.

12/11/1916, Percival Lowell, US astronomer who predicted the existence of the planet Pluto prior to its discovery in 1930, died in Flagstaff, Arizona.


Saturn exploration

15/9/2017, The Cassini spacecraft, which had been orbiting Saturn since 2004, dived into Saturn�s atmosphere to be destroyed. The spacecraft had almost run out of fuel, making it uncontrollable. This was to ensure the spacecraft did not crash into Enceladus, where a subsurface ocean of liquid water is believed to exist, and possibly contaminate it with terrestrial bacteria.

11/6/2004, The Cassini-Huygens US-European space mission (launched 1997) began a 4-year exploration of Saturn, its rings and satellites.

15/10/1997, The Cassini space probe was launched. It plunged into the planet�s atmosphere to destruction on 15/9/2017.

12/11/1979, The NASA probe Voyager 1 passed within 140,000 kilometres of Saturn, taking high-resolution pictures of the cloud tops.

1/9/1979, The US spacecraft Pioneer 1 visited Saturn, passing by the planet 21,000 kilometres away.

20/8/1977. The Voyager I space craft was launched on a journey via Jupiter and Saturn, later to become the first man-made object to leave the solar system.

5/9/1977, The US launched the Voyager 2 spacecraft to add to the information gathered by Voyager 1 on Saturn.It continued on to Uranus, then to Neptune, where it arrived in September 1989, its last planetary visit.

6/4/1973, The space probe Pioneer 11 was launched. Passing Jupiter a year after Pioneer 10 it continued on to Saturn, which it reached in 1979.

3/8/1933, Thursday (-4,296) WH Tay, British astronomer, found a prominent white spot on Saturn.

1898, Phoebe, moon of Saturn, was discovered by WH Pickering.

1848, Hyperion, moon of Saturn, was first observed.

17/9/1789, Herschel, using a large 40-ft focal length reflector telescope,first observed Saturn�s satellite, Mimas. Saturn was now known to have seven satellites.

28/8/1789, Astronomer William Herschel first observed Saturn�s satellite, Enceladus.

1684, Cassini discovered Dione and Tethys, satellites of Saturn.

1675, Cassini discovered that the rings of Saturn are separated by breaks, still known as the Cassini Divisions.

1672, Cassini discovered Rhea, a satellite of Saturn.

1671, Iapetus, moon of Saturn, was first observed.

25/3/1655, Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, was discovered by Christiaan Huygens.


Sun exploration

31/5/2006, Raymond Davis, astrophysicist (solar neutrinos), died (born 14/10/1914).

2/12/1995, The USA launched SOHO, a space probe to monitor solar activity.

13/9/1994, The unmanned Ulysses probe passed the Sun�s south pole, revealing much information about our star.

6/10/1990, The Ulysses space probe was launched. It went into polar orbit around the Sun, investigating its north and south poles. The probe was decommissioned on 30/6/2009.

1942, The Sun�s radio emissions were first discovered by the British scientist Robert Hey.���������� However at the time the radio noise was attributed to jamming by the Germans.

1938, The German-born US physicist Hans Boethe (2/7/1906 � 6/3/2005) began to work out the nuclear reactions that produce energy within the Sun. he received a Physics Nobel Prize for this work in 1967.

25/1/1938. The aurora borealis, or northern lights, were seen as far south as London�s West End and throughout Western Europe. It was due to intense sunspot activity.

2/7/1906, German physicist Hans Bethe was born in Strasbourg. In 1938 he proposed that stellar fusion of hydrogen into helium was how the Sun produced energy.

1860, Warren de la Rue showed that the prominences visible during a solar eclipse come from the Sun, not the Moon.

1860, Fraunhofer Lines in the light emitted by the Sun were identified as corresponding to the emission frequencies of light emitted by certain elements heated to incandescence. This discovery was made by German scientists Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-87) and Robert Bunsen (1811-99), who also invented the Bunsen burner. The dark lines in the Sun�s spectrum had been first spotted by English scientist William Wollaston in 1802; he thought they were merely boundaries between the various colours. Joseph von Fraunhofer studied the lines more closely and plotted 574 of them. Some 25,000 such lines are now known to exist in the Sun�s light, and that from other stars, identifying which chemical elements are present in those stars.

1859, Richard Christopher Carrington (born 26/5/1826 in London) discovered that the Sun does not rotate uniformly. Regions near its poles rotate every 25 days but the equator rotates every 27.5 days.

1843, German amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe worked out that the length of the sunspot cycle on the Sun was 11 years. He had initially been looking for a hypothetical planet closer to the Sun than Mercury.

1826, Heinrich Samuel Schwabe began regular observations of sunspots, leading to the discovery of the 11-year sunspot cycle.

7/6/1826, Joseph von Fraunhofer, best known for his study of absorption lines in the Sun�s spectrum, now known as Fraunhofer Lines, died (born 6/3/1787).

1814, German astronomer Joseph von Fraunhofer, born 6/3/1787l, made detailed chart of the dark lines in the Sun�s spectrum.

1802, William Hyde Wollaston (born East Dereham, England, 6/8/1766) noticed dark lines in the Sun�s spectrum, but failed to realise their significance. Joseph von Fraunhofer, who observed them in 1814, realised their importance.

6/3/1787, Joseph von Fraunhofer, best known for his study of absorption lines in the Sun�s spectrum, now known as Fraunhofer Lines, was born (died 7/6/1826).

29/3/1652, �Black Monday� � a total eclipse of the Sun in Britain caused anxiety.

1610, Sun spots first observed by Harriott, Fabricias, and Scheiner.

968, The Byzantine historian Leo Diaconus made the first recorded reference to the Sun�s corona.

265 BCE, Aristarchus of Samos estimated the distance between the Earth and the Sun by observing the angle between Sun and Moon when the Moon was exactly half-full.

17/7/709 BCE, An eclipse of the Sun was recorded in China.

19/3/721 BCE, An eclipse of the Sun was recorded by the Babylonians.

3/5/1375 BCE, The first total eclipse of the Sun recorded outside China, by the Babylonians.

21/10/2137 BCE. The first recorded total eclipse of the sun, in China.


Uranus exploration

24/1/1986. US spacecraft Voyager 2 passed within 51,000 miles of the cloud tops of Uranus. The space probe detected an ocean of water some 6,000 miles deep.

1976, The rings of Uranus were discovered.

1948, Miranda, moon of Uranus, was first observed.

1851, Ariel and Umbriel, two moons of Uranus, were first observed.

25/8/1822, The astronomer Sir William Herschel died.He discovered Uranus in 1781.

11/1/1787, William Herschel observed Uranus through his new large (20 ft focal length) reflector telescope, and first saw its satellites, Titania and Oberon.

13/3/1781, Astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, although initially he mistook it for a comet. He called it Georgium Sidus (George�s Star) in honour of King George III.

15/11/1738, Sir William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781, was born in Hanover, Germany.


Venus exploration

12/10/1994, The Magellan mission to Venus ended when radio contact with the probe was lost and the spacecraft burnt up in the atmosphere of the planet.

10/8/1990, The Magellan space probe reached Venus.

4/5/1989, The US space shuttle launched the Magellan probe to make a radar map of the surface of Venus.

4/11/1982, Soft landing on Venus by the Soviet space probe Venera 14.

1/3/1982, Soft landing on Venus by the Soviet space probe Venera 13.

9/12/1978, Two US spacecraft reached Venus, sending back pictures of its surface hidden below clouds. On 5/12/1978 the Pioneer I craft went into orbit around Venus, analysing the atmosphere and mapping the surface by radar. This day the Pioneer 2 craft launched probes which landed, surviving the hellish conditions for four hours.

8/6/1975, The USSR launched the Venera 9 probe towards Venus. It landed on the surface, transmitting data and pictures for 53 minutes.

5/2/1974. The US spacecraft Mariner 10 sent back pictures of Venus.

3/11/1973, The USA launched the Mariner-10 space probe. It made 1 flyby of Venus then 3 flybys of Mercury.

22/7/1972, The Russian space probe Venera 8 landed on Venus.

27/3/1972, Russia launched the space probe Venera 8 towards Venus.

17/8/1970, Monday (+9,232) The USSR launched the Venera-7 space probe to make a soft landing on Venus.

16/5/1969, The Russian spacecraft Venus 5 touched down on Venus.

18/10/1967, The Soviet space probe Venera 4 made the first soft landing on Venus.

12/6/1967, Venera 4 was launched toward Venus by the Soviet Union.

1/3/1966, The Russian spacecraft Venera 3 became the first man-made object to land on another planet when it made a hard landing on Venus. It had been launched on 16/11/1965.

16/11/1965, The Russians launched Venera 3 on a voyage to Venus.

14/12/1962. Mariner II sent back the first close-up pictures of the planet Venus. Venus was found to be rotating �backwards�.

27/8/1962, The US spacecraft Mariner II was launched, on a space mission, to Venus.

1961, The Soviet space probe Venera I orbited Venus.

1932, T Dunham detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus.

1761, The atmosphere of Venus was first observed by Mikhail Vasilyevich whilst observing a transit of the planet across the Sun.


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