Astro Anniversaries


Day Year Event
1 Feb 2003 Space Shuttle STS-107 (Columbia) broke up on re-entry, claiming the lives of the seven crew.
3 Feb 1882 Mocs meteorite fall in Romania.
3 Feb 1966 The Russian Luna 9 probe became the first spacecraft to soft-land on the moon.
3 Feb 2002 Alby sur Cheran meteorite fall – it hit a building in France.
4 Feb 1906 Clyde Tombaugh born. Discoverer of Pluto.
4 Feb 1947 John Brown born. The tenth Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow.
5 Feb 1959 NASA forms a working group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to formulate plans for future lunar exploration.
5 Feb 1974 Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to use gravity assist in a fly-by of Venus in order to reach Mercury.
5 Feb 2002 HESSI (High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager) solar flare observatory launched on a mission to explore the physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares.
6 Feb 1923 Edward Barnard died. Barnard was a professional astronomer who discovered the high proper motion of Barnard’s Star in 1916, which is named in his honour.
7 Feb 1824 William Huggins born. He was the pioneer in taking and understanding the spectra of stars and nebulae.
7 Feb 1984 Bruce McCandless became the first orbiting astronaut to let go of the tether to the Space Shuttle, wearing the Manned Manoeuvring Unit to allow him to return to the spacecraft.
8 Feb 1992 Ulysses probe arrived at Jupiter for a fly-by as part of its mission to study the Sun at all latitudes above the plane of the ecliptic.
8 Feb 1974 Fritz Zwicky died. Zwicky was a Swiss astronomer who worked mainly at the California Institute of Technology in the USA.  He was the first scientist to postulate the existence of dark matter.
9 Feb 1811 Nevil Maskelyne died. Maskelyne was the fifth Astronomer Royal. He introduced the Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris for use in navigation at sea.
10 Feb 1842 Agnes Mary Clerke born. Irish astronomer and writer.
10 Feb 1944 Eugène Antoniadi died. Antoniadi was an observer of Mercury, Venus and Mars. He made the first map of Mercury and introduced the Antoniadi seeing scale.
10 Feb 2002 Solar Orbiter launched to perform detailed measurements of the inner heliosphere and nascent solar wind, and perform close observations of the polar regions of the Sun.
12 Feb 1947 Sikhote Alin meteorite fall in Russia.
13 Feb 1852 John Dreyer born. Dreyer compiled the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC).
14 Feb 1898 Fritz Zwicky born.
14 Feb 1950 Karl Jansky died. An American physicist and radio engineer who discovered radio waves emanating from the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius.
14 Feb 1990 The ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photograph of Earth was taken by Voyager 1 from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometres (40.5 au), as part of that day’s Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.
15 Feb 1564 Galileo Galilei born.
15 Feb 1845 The Leviathan of Parsonstown, the world’s largest telescope from 1845 to 1917, saw first light.
15 Feb 1858 William Pickering born.
16 Feb 1827 Mhow meteorite fall – it reportedly wounded a man in India.
16 Feb 1948 Gerard Kuiper discovered Miranda, one of the satellites of Uranus.
17 Feb 1723 Tobias Mayer born.
17 Feb 1919 Walter Stibbs born. Australian astronomer. Napier Professor of Astronomy and Director of the University Observatory at the University of St Andrews (1959-89).
18 Feb 1930 Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, a 23-year old observing assistant at the Lowell Observatory, by using a blink comparator on photographs which he had taken in the previous month at the observatory.
19 Feb 1473 Nicolaus Copernicus born.  Copernicus formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at its centre.
19 Feb 2020 Heather Couper died. British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser.
20 Feb 1762 Tobias Mayer died. German astronomer famous for his studies of the Moon. He developed a theory on the motion of the Moon and produced the lunar tables used in the Nautical Alamanc and Astronomical Ephemeris for navigation at sea.
20 Feb 1962 Mercury-Atlas 6 spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral with astronaut John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth.
20 Feb 1997 The Galileo spacecraft performed a fly-by of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
20 Feb 2002 San Michele meteorite fall (hit building in Italy).
21 Feb 1900 Charles Piazzi Smyth died. The second Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh.
22 Feb 1824 Carl Janssen born.  French astronomer who, along with Norman Lockyer, discovered the gaseous nature of the solar chromosphere.
23 Feb 1987 Supernova 1987A in the neighbouring Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy became visible from the southern hemisphere. It has been the best-studied exploding star of all time.
25 Feb 1786 Thomas Wright died. A British astronomer who described the shape of the Milky Way and speculated that faint nebulae were distant galaxies.
25 Feb 1997 Juancheng meteorite fall – it hit a house in China.
25 Feb 2002 Mariner 6 was launched to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars during close fly-bys.
26 Feb 1842 Camille Flammarion born. French astronomer and author.
27 Feb 1942 James Stanley Hey discovered radio waves coming from the Sun for the first time – these were from a very active sunspot group.
29 Feb 1820 Lewis Swift born. Swift was an American astronomer who discovered 13 comets and 1,248 previously uncatalogued nebulae.

LAST UPDATED: 2023-01-30