Astro Anniversaries


Day Year Event
1 Jan 1801 Ceres, the first member of the asteroid belt, was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi. It is now classified as a dwarf planet.
1 Jan 1925 Astronomer Edwin Hubble formally presented his discovery that galaxies lie outside the Milky Way at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
1 Jan 1952 The Kyiv Planetarium was opened in Kyiv, Ukraine.
2 Jan 1892 George Biddell Airy died. A British mathematician and astronomer, and the seventh Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881.
2 Jan 1959 Luna 1 was launched as part of the the Soviet Luna Programme. It was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon, but a malfunction in the ground-based control system caused an error in the upper stage rocket’s burn time, and the spacecraft missed the Moon by 5,900 km.  In doing so, it became the first artificial object to go into orbit around the Sun and was renamed Mechta (Dream) accordingly.
2 Jan 2015 Vincent Reddish died.  He was a British astronomer who spent much of his career in Edinburgh, where he made significant contributions to British optical astronomy.  He was the 8th Astronomer Royal for Scotland, the Director of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and Regius Professor at the University of Edinburgh (all from 1975–80).
2 Jan 2020 Dr David Gavine died. Known popularly and affectionately to all as ‘Dave’. He was a well-known astronomer and lecturer, with special interests in the aurora and in the  history of astronomy.
3 Jan 1877 Warrenton meteorite fall in Missouri. Classified as a stony meteorite and weighing about 45 kg, it struck a tree and broke into pieces.
3 Jan 1888 First light for the 36-inch refracting telescope at the Lick Observatory, the world’s largest telescope from 1888 to 1897.
3 Jan 1999 Mars Polar Lander launched by NASA to study the soil and climate of Planum Australe, a region near the south pole of Mars.
4 Jan 1643 Isaac Newton born.
4 Jan 1797 Wilhelm Beer born. Working with Johann Heinrich von Mädler in Beer’s private observatory in Berlin, he produced the first exact map (and later a description) of the Moon, both of which remained the best available for many years.
4 Jan 2004 Mars rover Spirit landed.
5 Jan 1892 First photograph of the Aurora Borealis taken by Martin Brendel.
5 Jan 1972 President Nixon announced decision that the USA would build a reusable space shuttle.
7 Jan 1610 Galileo Galilei discovered the four large moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto), the first moons ever found around another planet.
7 Jan 1968 Moon lander Surveyor 7 launched.
7 Jan 1998 Moon orbiter Lunar Prospector launched.
8 Jan 1642 Galileo Galilei died.
8 Jan 1868 Frank Dyson born. The ninth Astronomer Royal, Dyson is largely remembered today for introducing the Greenwich time signals (‘pips’) and for the role he played in proving Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
8 Jan 1942 Theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking born.
9 Jan 1848 Caroline Herschel died.
9 Jan 1992 Announcement by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail of the first two exoplanets discovered. The planets were observed orbiting pulsar PSR B1257+12.
10 Jan 1946 First radar signal bounced off the Moon by the US Army Signal Corps using an antenna at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
11 Jan 1787 William Herschel discovered two moons (Titania and Oberon) around Uranus.
14 Jan 2005 The European Space Agency’s Huygens probe landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.  It was the first successful landing on a body in the outer Solar System.
16 Jan 1938 William Pickering died. While working at Harvard College Observatory, he developed the Pickering Scale for rating astronomical ‘seeing’ (the blurring of images caused by atmospheric turbulence).
16 Jan 2003 Space Shuttle STS-107 (Columbia) launched. The following month, breakup on re-entry disintegrated the spacecraft and claimed the lives of the seven crew.
17 Jan 1997 Clyde Tombaugh died. Discovered Pluto in 1930.
19 Jan 1747 Johann Bode born. An astronomer known for the Titius-Bode law of planetary distances.
19 Jan 2006 New Horizons probe to Pluto launched.
21 Jan 1892 John Couch Adams died. A British mathematician and astronomer whose most famous achievement was predicting the existence and position of Neptune, although the credit for discovery ultimately (and controversially) went to the French astronomer Le Verrier.
22 Jan 1592 Pierre Gassendi born. Gassendi became the first person to observe the transit of a planet across the Sun, viewing the transit of Mercury in 1631 that had been predicted by Kepler in 1627.
24 Jan 1882 Harold D Babcock born. An astronomer at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, he specialised in solar spectroscopy and mapped the distribution of magnetic fields over the Sun’s surface, working alongside his son, Harold W Babcock.
24 Jan 1914 David Gill died. Gill was appointed as Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope (1879 to 1907).
25 Jan 1736 Joseph-Louis Lagrange born. An Italian mathematician, physicist and astronomer, later naturalized French. He made significant contributions to the fields of analysis, number theory, and both classical and celestial mechanics.
25 Jan 1742 Edmond Halley died. Predicted the return of Halley’s comet every 76 years.
25 Jan 2004 Mars rover Opportunity landed.
26 Jan 1949 First light for the 200-inch Hale telescope on Mount Palomar in California, under the direction of astronomer Edwin Hubble.
27 Jan 1967 A cabin fire in Apollo 1, while on the launch pad during a launch rehearsal test, claimed the lives of the three crew.
28 Jan 1986 Space Shuttle STS-51-L (Challenger) launched. An explosion shortly after lift-off destroyed the vehicle and claimed the lives of the seven crew.
29 Jan 1771 Charles Green died. Having joined the staff of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1760, in 1763, Green, along with the astronomer Nevil Maskelyne, made the voyage to Barbados to monitor the testing of John Harrison’s H4 chronometer.
31 Jan 1783 The star 40 Eridani B was discovered by William Herschel. In the 20th century, the star was classified as a white dwarf.
31 Jan 1862 The star Sirius B was discovered by Alvan Clark, Jr. As with 40 Eridani B, Sirius B was also classified as a white dwarf in the 20th century.

LAST UPDATED: 2024-01-03