solar system

Jean Sylvain Bailly and the Orbit of Halley’s Comet

Jean Sylvain Bailly and the Orbit of Halley’s Comet

On September 15, 1736, French astronomer, mathematician, freemason, and political leader of the early part of the French Revolution Jean Sylvain Bailly was born. Bailly computed an orbit for Halley’s Comet (1759) and studied the four satellites of Jupiter then known. He was the first Mayor of Paris and presided over the Tennis Court Oath. Jean Sylvain Bailly came from a family of artists. His father was an artist and supervisor…
Mariner 4 and the First Pictures from Mars

Mariner 4 and the First Pictures from Mars

On July 15, 1965, NASA spaceprobe Mariner 4 performed the first successful flyby of the planet Mars, returning the first pictures of the Martian surface. It captured the first images of another planet ever returned from deep space; their depiction of a cratered, seemingly dead world largely changed the view of the scientific community of life on Mars. Mariner 4 was already the fourth in a series of spacecraft to explore…
Alfred Nier and Mass Spectroscopy

Alfred Nier and Mass Spectroscopy

On May 28, 1911, American physicist Alfred Otto Carl Nier was born. Nier pioneered the development of mass spectrometry. He was the first to use mass spectrometry to isolate uranium-235 which was used to demonstrate that 235U could undergo fission and developed the sector mass spectrometer configuration now known as Nier-Johnson geometry. Alfred Otto Carl Nier attended the University of Minnesota and graduated in electrical engineering in 1931. Nier decided…
Edward Walter Maunder and the Sunspots

Edward Walter Maunder and the Sunspots

On April 12, 1851, British astronomer Edward Walter Maunder was born. Maunder was the first to take the British Civil Service Commission examination for the post of photographic and spectroscopic assistant at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. He is best remembered for his study of sunspots and the solar magnetic cycle that led to his identification of the period from 1645 to 1715 that is now known as the Maunder Minimum.…
Donald Howard Menzel and the UFOs

Donald Howard Menzel and the UFOs

On April 11, 1901, theoretical astronomer and astrophysicist Donald Howard Menzel was born. Menzel discovered the physical properties of the solar chromosphere, the chemistry of stars, the atmosphere of Mars, and the nature of gaseous nebulae. Moreover, he was best known for his arguments against the existence of extraterrestrial UFO‘s. Donald Howard Menzel already collected rocks as a child and built a chemistry laboratory in the cellar of his family’s…
John Couch Adams and the Discovery of Planet Neptune

John Couch Adams and the Discovery of Planet Neptune

On January 21, 1821, English mathematician and astronomer John Couch Adams passed away. Adams most famous achievement was predicting the existence and position of Neptune, using only mathematics. The calculations were made to explain discrepancies with Uranus‘s orbit and the laws of Kepler and Newton. At the same time, but unknown to each other, the same calculations were made by Urbain Le Verrier. John Couch Adams was born at Lidcot,…
Project Diana hits the Moon

Project Diana hits the Moon

On January 10, 1946 the U.S. Army Project Diana team detected radar signals reflected off the moon‘s surface. This was the first experiment in radar astronomy and the first active attempt to probe another celestial body. Project Diana was designed in order to bounce radar signals off the Moon and receive the reflected signals, which became the first known attempt to probe another celestial body. Pioneer of the project was …
Michael Collins – Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11

Michael Collins – Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11

On October 31, 1930, American astronaut and test pilot Michael Collins was born. Collins’ second spaceflight was as the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 11. While he stayed in orbit around the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left in the Lunar Module to make the first manned landing on its surface. Next to the Apollo program, Michael Collins was part of the Gemini 10 crew, along with John Young. He received his first…
Jérôme Lalande measuring the distance to the Moon

Jérôme Lalande measuring the distance to the Moon

On July 11, 1732, French astronomer, freemason and writer Jérôme Lalande was born. Lalande is best known for having determined the Moon’s parallax from Berlin for the French Academy in 1751. His planetary tables, into which he introduced corrections for mutual perturbations, were the best available up to the end of the 18th century. Jérôme Lalande first studied at the Jesuit College in Lyon and later went to Paris to…
George Ellery Hale and the Magnetic Fields in Sunspots

George Ellery Hale and the Magnetic Fields in Sunspots

On June 29, 1868, American solar astronomer George Ellery Hale was born. He is best known for his discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots, and as the leader or key figure in the planning or construction of several world-leading telescopes, including the 200-inch Hale reflecting telescope at Palomar Observatory. George Ellery Hale was the oldest of three children  and it is believed that he was highly supported by his parents…
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