Visualize a vast reservoir of icy comets on the outskirts of our solar system. That’s what Jan Oort did in 1950, and why the Oort Cloud bears his name.
This Date in Science
April 1, 1997. On this date, Comet Hale-Bopp – probably the best-remembered bright comet for many in the Northern Hemisphere – reached its perihelion or closest point to the sun.
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879. He published his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 and his General Theory of Relativity in 1916. His work capped off the work of several previous centuries of science … and launched modern physics.
He was a Russian Soviet pilot and the first human to travel to space, in 1961. Later, he became one of the world’s true heroes …
February 24, 1987. When Supernova 1987A first appeared in earthly skies – during the night of February 23-24, 1987 – astronomers were beside themselves with delight. It was the closest observed supernova since 1604. In this shining pinpoint in our sky, those fortunate to be in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere (in whose sky the supernova appeared) could see the death throes of a giant star. The new star remained visible to the eye for many months. It has been studied by astronomers for decades since. Follow the links inside to learn more about Supernova 1987A.
February 20, 1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. He made three turns around the planet before returning safely in his spacecraft, Friendship 7.
February 19, 1473. Nicolaus Copernicus was born on this date, 541 years ago. Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and mathematician. He lived at a time when people believed Earth lay enclosed within crystal spheres at the center of the universe. Can you picture the leap of imagination required for him to conceive of a sun-centered universe? The publication of Copernicus’ book – De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) – just before his death in 1543, set the stage for all of modern astronomy. Today, people speak of his work as the Copernican Revolution.
February 15, 1564. Italian astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Galileo Galilei was born 452 years ago today. He is one of the first people on Earth to have aimed a telescope at the heavens. His discovery of Jupiter’s moons (among other things) showed Earth was not the center of the universe and was considered heresy by the Roman Inquisition. In 1633, the Inquisition forced Galileo to recant.
February 9, 1913. On this date, a strange meteor sighting occurred over Canada, the U.S. Northeast, Bermuda and some ships at sea, including one off Brazil. What happened that night is sometimes called the Great Meteor Procession of 1913, and it sparked decades of debate concerning what actually happened.