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This Date in Science

This date in science: Biggest earthquake in North America

After the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska, both human and natural areas sustained damage.

During the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska, both human and natural areas sustained damage. A large landslide caused the damage shown here to many homes in Anchorage’s Turnagain-By-The-Sea subdivision. Image via U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

March 27, 1964. On this date, at 5:36 p.m. local time, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska, causing extensive initial damage and a subsequent tsunami. In Anchorage, dozens of blocks of buildings were leveled or damaged. Valdez, closest to the epicenter, was destroyed. The quake is now known as the Good Friday Earthquake.

This date in science: Einstein’s birthday

Albert Einstein in 1947, via Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein in 1947, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

This date in science: Uranus discovered, completely by accident

Voyager 2 gave us our first close-up image of the planet Uranus in 1986.  Its images showed a featureless gas giant world.

Voyager 2 gave us our first close-up image of the planet Uranus in 1986. Its images showed a featureless gas giant world.

March 13, 1781. The 7th planet – Uranus – was discovered on this date, completely by accident. British astronomer William Herschel was performing a survey of all the stars that were of magnitude 8 – in other words, too faint to see with the eye – or brighter. That’s when he noticed an object that moved in front of the star background over time, clearly demonstrating it was closer to us than the distant stars. He surmised this object was orbiting the sun and that it was a new planet – the first discovered since ancient times.

This date in science: Breakup of an asteroid

The Hubble Space Telescope caught the rare breakup of an asteroid known as P/2013 R3 over a series of month in late 2013 and 2014. This image, the first in a series, was taken on Oct. 29, 2013.  Image via NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt.

The Hubble Space Telescope caught the rare breakup of an asteroid known as P/2013 R3 over a series of month in late 2013 and 2014. This image, the first in a series, was taken on Oct. 29, 2013. Image via NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt.

March 6, 2014. On this date, The Astrophysical Journal Letters published a study of the first-ever-seen breakup of an asteroid. The asteroid had been discovered in September, 2013. It was designated P/2013 R3. Subsequent observations showed not one, but three bodies traveling together. They were surrounded by a dusty envelope nearly as wide as the Earth. Then the Hubble Space Telescope was used to look at this object … and … wow!

This date in science: Closest supernova since 1604

Supernova SN 1987A, one of the brightest stellar explosions since the invention of the telescope more than 400 years ago, is no stranger to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The observatory has been on the frontline of studies into this brilliant dying star since its launch in 1990, three years after the supernova exploded.  Image via spacetelescope.org

Supernova SN 1987A, one of the brightest stellar explosions since the invention of the telescope more than 400 years ago.

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.

This date in science: John Glenn first American to orbit Earth

John Glenn and Friendship 7

John Glenn and Friendship 7

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.

This date in science: Happy birthday, Nicolaus Copernicus

This Flammarion engraving, by an unknown artist, is called Empedocles Breaks through the Crystal Spheres. Its original caption read: “A missionary of the Middle Ages tells that he had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch…”

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.

This date in science: Chuck Yeager’s birthday

Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis after his wife.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis after his wife. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

February 13, 1923. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, was born in Myra, West Virginia on this date in 1923. Yaeger enlisted in the Army Air Corps in September 1941, at the age of 18 …

This date in science: When a spacecraft destroyed a sundog

The coolest space launch ever! Watch what happened when a spacecraft launch destroyed a sundog, in the process bringing to light a new form of ice halo. Full story inside.

This date in science: Great Meteor Procession

Canadian artist Gustav Hahn painted his impression of what the Great Meteor Procession looked like, in 1913. Image via Gustav Hahn/University of Toronto Archives. Used with permission.

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.