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  • Elizabeth Cocking

In this Month - January

Happy New Year!

24th January 1986

Voyager 2 encounters Uranus. At its closest the spacecraft came to within 81,500 kilometres of Uranus's cloud tops. As at November 2018 NASA announced that the space probe had crossed the outer edge of the solar system and is now more than 18 billion kilometres from Earth.

31st January 1996 Comet Hyakutake, or to give it its proper designation C/1996 B2, is discovered by Yuji Hyakutake an amateur astronomer from southern Japan using a powerful set of binoculars. It was dubbed “The Great Comet of 1996”. Its passage near Earth was one of the closest cometary approaches for the past 200 years, coming to within 15 million kilometres of Earth.

New Horizons - artwork credit NASA

19th January 2006 New Horizons spacecraft (pictured - NASA) was launched with the primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015, and a secondary mission to fly by and study one or more Kuiper belt objects in the decade to follow. New Horizons was built to be tiny by space exploration standards, weighing about as much as a piano. On board are Alice an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer and Ralph an infrared imager and spectrometer telescope.


8th January 1868 Sir Frank Watson Dyson. English astronomer and the ninth Astronomer Royal. He was noted for his study of solar eclipses and was an authority on the spectrum of the Sun’s corona and chromosphere and for the role he played in proving Einstein's theory of general relativity.

10th January 1936

Robert Wilson. American astronomer. In 1964 along with Arno Penzias he discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation. For their discovery they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1978.

Jill Tarter

16th January 1944 Jill Tarter. American astronomer best known for her work on the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI). The movie Contact was loosely based on her work. In her PhD thesis she was the first to use the term "brown dwarf" while researching small-mass objects that range between heavy gas giant planets and the lightest stars. Tarter is still highly active in the search for exo-planets.

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