Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 27, 2021

November 27, 2021 Today in 2005, the Japanese probe Hayabusa grazed the surface of the asteroid Itokawa, retrieving material to return to Earth for study. Tiny grains of asteroidal material were returned to Earth aboard the spacecraft in June of 2010. A concise description of the mission may be found here. Asteroid (25143) Itokawa as… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 25, 2021

November 25, 2021 Today in 1960, the first atomic reactor for research and development began operation at Richland, Washington. The plant was built to determine the suitability of plutonium as a reactor fuel. There was a need to recycle plutonium resulting from weapons production. Plutonium would go on to be used as a power source… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 23, 2021

November 23, 2021 Today in 1948, the first US patent for a lens to provide zoom effects for television cameras was issued to F.G. Back. His Zoomar lens was adjustable for closeups or long-distance shots without requiring the camera be moved toward or away from the object televised. Similar zoom lenses have a wide variety… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 21, 2021

November 21, 2021 Today in 1783, the first free flight carrying a human occurred in Paris, France in a hot air balloon made of paper and silk. The balloon carried two men, Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis Francois Laurant d’Arlandes, to an altitude of at least 500 feet and traveled about six… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 19, 2021

November 19, 2021 Today in 1956, American astronaut Eileen Collins was born. Collins served as the first woman shuttle pilot on STS-63 (Feb 3-11, 1995) which included a rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir, and also STS-84 (May 15-24, 1997). On her third space shuttle flight, STS-93 (Jul 22-27, 1999), which deployed the Chandra… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 17, 2021

November 17, 2021 Tonight into early tomorrow morning, the annual Leonid Meteor Shower will peak. The Leonids are produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle. While typically an average shower producing only 15 meteors per hour at its peak, the Leonids have a cyclonic peak every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 15, 2021

November 15, 2021 Today in 1988, the Soviet Union launched its first space shuttle, Buran (“Snowstorm”), on its first and only orbital flight. The unmanned flight was limited to two orbits lasting 206 minutes before reentry and a safe automatic touchdown at Tyuratum. The program’s funding was cut and the program eventually canceled in 1993.… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 13, 2021

November 13, 2021 Today in 1971, Mariner-9, the first man-made object to orbit another planet, entered Martian orbit. The mission of the unmanned craft was to return photographs mapping 70% of the surface, and to study the planet’s thin atmosphere, clouds, and hazes, together with its surface chemistry and seasonal changes. Orbital view of Olympus… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 11, 2021

November 11, 2021 Today in 1966, Gemini 12 was launched from Cape Canaveral, with astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and James Lovell aboard. This last flight of the Gemini program tested rendezvous methods and extravehicular activities (EVAs, or ‘spacewalks’) in preparation for the start of the final push to the Moon: the Apollo Program. A ‘play-by-play’… Continue reading

Astronomy Fact of the Day: November 9, 2021

November 9, 2021 Today in 1934, Carl Sagan was born. Sagan was an American astronomy and science communicator who helped to popularize space science through the 13-pat television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.” Learn more about Carl Sagan and his contributions to astronomy here. Carl Sagan unveils the iconic Pale Blue Dot image at a… Continue reading