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This Date in Science

This date in science: Wright brothers’ first flight

The Wright brothers' airplane on its first powered flight on December 17, 1903.  Via Library of Congress.

The Wright brothers’ airplane on its first powered flight on December 17, 1903. Via Library of Congress.

December 17, 1903. On this date, two Ohio brothers – Wilbur and Orville Wright – made the first bonafide, manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flight. It was the first airplane, and it took off at 10:35 a.m. with Orville Wright on board as pilot. He flew their vehicle, called the Flyer, for 12 seconds over 120 feet (about 37 meters) of sandy ground just outside Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

This date in science: Birthday of inventor of Dewey Decimal system

Photo credit: Elizabeth Howell

Melvil Dewey’s love of efficiency is clear in the Dewey Decimal System, which is used in libraries worldwide today. Photo credit: Elizabeth Howell

December 10, 1851. What if you wanted to organize every book in the library? That was the goal of Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal classification system, used today in libraries around the world.

This date in science: Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe

This image is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, released in 2012.  Read more about this image here.

This is the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, released in 2012. Nearly every speck of light here is a separate galaxy, beyond our Milky Way.

November 20, 1889. Happy birthday, Edwin Hubble! The Hubble Space Telescope is named for this astronomer. How did this honor come to be? Hubble’s work was pivotal in changing our entire cosmology: our idea of the universe as a whole.

This date in science: First radio signal beamed to space

Aerial view of Arecibo Observatory via Wiki Commons

The Arecibo Radio Telescope, at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, largest dish antenna in the world. In 1974, this telescope was used to broadcast the first intentional radio signal into space.

November 16, 1974. This is the anniversary of the most powerful broadcast ever deliberately beamed into space with the intention of contacting alien life. Some applauded this event as a mind-expanding attempt to remind people in 1974 that Earth is likely not the only planet where an intelligent civilization has evolved. At the time, others felt we shouldn’t be attempting to reveal Earth’s location in space to unknown alien civilizations.

This date in science: Launch of Sputnik

Photo credit: NASA

A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in the world to be put into outer space: the replica is stored in the National Air and Space Museum. Photo credit: NASA

October 4, 1957. On this date, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. According to many space historians, the Space Age began on this date.

This date in science: E=mc2

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein in 1905, his “miracle year.” Image via Wikimedia Commons

September 27, 1905. On this date, while he was employed at a patent office, Albert Einstein published a paper titled “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy-Content?” It was the last of four papers he submitted that year to the journal Annalen der Physik. The first explained the photoelectric effect, the second offered experimental proof of the existence of atoms, and the third introduced the theory of special relativity. In the fourth paper, Einstein explained the relationship between energy and mass. That is, E=mc2

A first glimpse of Earth and moon as worlds in space

Here is the first-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame.  Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth.   Image Number: P-19891 via NASA/JPL

Here is the first-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame. Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. Via NASA/JPL

September 18, 1977. Previous images had shown a part of the Earth, and a part of the moon, together. But – until this image by Voyager 1, taken on today’s date 37 years ago – we had never seen the Earth and moon as whole worlds in space, in the same frame and in color.

This date in science: Pioneer 11 swept past Saturn

Image credit:  NASA/Ames

Image credit: NASA/Ames

September 1, 1979. On this date, NASA’s Pioneer 11 came within 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) of Saturn, making it the first spacecraft ever to sweep closely past that place. The spacecraft found a new ring for Saturn – now called the “F” ring – and also a new moon, Epimetheus. There were two Pioneer spacecraft. They were used to investigate Saturn’s rings and determine if a trajectory through the rings was safe for the upcoming Voyager visits. They paved the way for the even-more-sophisticated Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977.

Back to the future with Neptune’s fascinating moon Triton

Neptune and Triton, via Voyager 2.

Neptune and Triton, via Voyager 2.

On the anniversary of Voyager 2’s encounter with Neptune and Triton … an awesome collection of restored Voyager 2 images, plus the link between Triton and Pluto.

This date in science: First view of Earth from the moon

Photograph courtesy NASA/Lunar Orbiter 1 This photo reveals the first view of Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. Shot from a distance of about 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers), this image shows half of Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town and areas east, shrouded in night.

First view of Earth from the moon, courtesy NASA/Lunar Orbiter 1.

August 23, 1966. This photo reveals the first view of Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. It’s shot from a distance of about 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) and shows half of Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town and areas east, shrouded in night. NASA restored this photo in 2008, using photographic techniques not available in the 1960s. See the restored photo inside.