solar system

Rudolf Wolf and the Discovery of the Sunspot Cycle

Rudolf Wolf and the Discovery of the Sunspot Cycle

On July 7, 1816, Swiss astronomer and astronomical historian Rudolf Wolf was born. Wolf’s main contribution was the discovery of the 11 year sunspot cycle and he was the co-discoverer of its connection with geomagnetic activity on Earth. Rudolf Wolf – Early Years and Academic Career Johann Rudolf Wolf was born in Fällanden, near Zurich, to Regula Gossweiler and Johannes Wolf, who was a minister in the Church. After studying at the Zurich Industrieschule,…
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Johann Heinrich von Mädler and the First Accurate Map of the Moon

Johann Heinrich von Mädler and the First Accurate Map of the Moon

On May 29, 1794, German astronomer Johann Heinrich von Mädler was born. He is best known for producing one of the first exact map of the Moon, the Mappa Selenographica. Johann Heinrich von Mädler – Early Years Mädler was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a master tailor. At birth, however, he was so weak that it was feared that he could only survive for a few hours. Over the years his…
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To Jupiter and Beyond – The Pioneer 10 Mission

To Jupiter and Beyond – The Pioneer 10 Mission

On March 2, 1972, American space probe Pioneer 10 was launched. Pioneer 10 was the first spaceprobe that completed the first mission to the planet Jupiter. Thereafter, Pioneer 10 became the first of five artificial objects to achieve the escape velocity needed to leave the Solar System. As a child, I remember how much i was impressed and amazed by the very first pictures of the colorful clouds of the gas giant.…
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Lunokhod 2 and the Soviet Moon Programme

Lunokhod 2 and the Soviet Moon Programme

On January 16, 1973, Soviet unmanned lunar rover Lunokhod 2 took its first TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface of the Moon, and took first pictures of the landing site. Lunokhod 2 was the second of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of the Lunokhod programme. The Lunokhods were primarily designed to support the Soviet manned moon…
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Johann Daniel Titius and the Titius-Bode Law

Johann Daniel Titius and the Titius-Bode Law

On January 2, 1729, German astronomer Johann Daniel Titius was born. He is best known for formulating the Titius–Bode law, a hypothesis that the bodies in some orbital systems, including the Sun’s, orbit at semi-major axes in a function of planetary sequence. The formula suggests that, extending outward, each planet would be approximately twice as far from the Sun as the one before. The hypothesis correctly anticipated the orbits of Ceres and Uranus,…
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Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

Heinrich Olbers and the Olbers’ Paradox

On October 11, 1758, German physician and astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers was born. Besides his discovery of coments and minor planets, Olbers is best known for his new method to calculate the velocity of falling stars. Maybe you have also heard of the famous Olbers’ paradox, which asks “why is the night sky dark if there are so many bright stars all around to light it?” Heinrich Olbers Background Heinrich Olbers was born…
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Luna 2 – The First Spacecraft to Land on the Moon

Luna 2 – The First Spacecraft to Land on the Moon

On September 12, 1959, Soviet spaceprobe Luna 2 was launched. It was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon and was also the first man-made object to land on another celestial body. On September 14, 1959 it successfully impacted with the lunar surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus. The Soviet Luna Programme Actually, already Lunar 1 was intended as an impactor and was…
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Fred Whipple and the Dirty Snowballs

Fred Whipple and the Dirty Snowballs

On August 30, 2004, American astronomer Fred Lawrence Whipple passed away. Amongst his achievements, he discovered some asteroids and comets, came up with the “dirty snowball” cometary hypothesis, and designed the Whipple shield. A Thriving Astronomer Fred Whipple was born on November 5, 1906, in Red Oak, Iowa, as the son of a farmer. An early bout with polio ended his ambition of being a professional tennis player. Whipple studied at Occidental College…
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Voyager and the Exploration of Saturn

Voyager and the Exploration of Saturn

On August 25, 1981, American space probe Voyager 2 passed Saturn and transmitted stunning pictures of the ring planet. The space probe had been launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually to push forward into interstellar space. Until today, operating for more than 30 years the spacecraft still receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network, a world-wide network of large…
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Maria Mitchell and “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”

Maria Mitchell and “Miss Mitchell’s Comet”

On August 1, 1814, American astronomer Maria Mitchell was born who, in 1847, by using a telescope, discovered a comet which as a result became known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet“. „We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.” – Maria Mitchell Maria Mitchell – Youth and Education Maria Mitchell was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA, among nine brothers and sisters…
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