solar system

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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The Discovery of Charon, Pluto’s largest Moon

The Discovery of Charon, Pluto’s largest Moon

On June 22, 1978, US astronomer James Christie discovered Charon, the largest moon of Pluto. Although there was a discussion after the reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf, Charon is not in the list of dwarf planets currently recognized by the IAU. A Bulge on Pluto On June 22, 1978,  James Christy had examined the magnified images of the former planet Pluto, taken with the 61-inch Flagstaff telescope two months prior. He noticed a…
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Johann Gottfried Galle and the First Observation of Planet Neptune

Johann Gottfried Galle and the First Observation of Planet Neptune

On June 9, 1812, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle was born. Galle actually was the first person to view the planet Neptune and know what he was looking at, by making use of the calculations of his fellow astronomer Urbain Le Verrier. Background Johann Gottfried Galle Johann Gottfried Galle studied at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin between 1839 and 1833 and started to work at the new Berlin Observatory two years later. There, he worked…
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Francis Baily and the Baily Beads

Francis Baily and the Baily Beads

On May 15, 1836, English astronomer Francis Baily for the first time observed the so-called ‘Baily’s beads‘ during an eclipse of the Sun. For sure you know the effect, although you might not have seen it with your own eyes in nature. But, numerous photographs, pictures, and videos have been published, where the phenomenon can be watched. So what are Beailey’s beads? Solar Eclipse and Baily Beads The Baily’s beads effect is a feature of…
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David Rittenhouse and the Transit of Venus

David Rittenhouse and the Transit of Venus

On April 8, 1732, American astronomer David Rittenhouse was born. He was an early observer of the atmosphere of Venus. For observations for the transit of Venus on 3 June 1769, he constructed a high precision pendulum clock, an astronomical quadrant, an equal altitude instrument, and an astronomical transit. Besides being an astronomer, he was also inventor, clockmaker, mathematician, surveyor, scientific instrument craftsman and public official as first director of the United States Mint.…
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Aristarchus of Samos – Putting the Sun at the Right Place

Aristarchus of Samos – Putting the Sun at the Right Place

About 310 BC, ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos was born. He presented the first known model that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth revolving around it. As Anaxagoras before him, he also suspected that the stars were just other bodies like the Sun. His astronomical ideas were often rejected in favor of the geocentric theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy. “The earth is…
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