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In this month: December

November 30, 2019

11th December 1972

Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo missions, lands on the Moon. Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon as no humans have been back since. The mission carried the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt. Compared to previous Apollo missions the Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. Image below courtesy of NASA.

 

 

27th December 1984

A meteorite, ALH84001, is found in the Allan Hills area of Antarctica. Believed to be a fragment from a Martian meteorite the 1.93 kilogram rock is thought to be one of the oldest Martian meteorites to have crystallized from molten rock around 4 billion years ago. Based on chemical analysis it is thought to have originated on Mars during a period when liquid water existed on the planet's surface.

 

7th December 1995

The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter and becomes the first spacecraft to orbit an outer planet and deploy a probe into an outer planet’s atmosphere. Upon arriving at the planet a 339 kilogram probe was launched into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure temperature, pressure and the winds of the planet. During entry into the atmosphere the probe was subjected to temperatures around 15,500 °C. The radio signal from the probe was received for 57 minutes and stopped transmitting when the ambient pressure and temperatures became excessive.

 

 

BORN

28th December 1798

Thomas Henderson. Scottish astronomer. Noted for being the first person to measure the distance to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth. He was also the first to determine the parallax of a fixed star and for being the first Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Henderson was a member of several distinguished societies, including the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. You can still see his observatory on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, pictured below (anonymous).

 

 

 

11th December 1863

Annie Jump Cannon. American astronomer whose cataloguing work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification. In 1896 she became a member of the Harvard Computers a group of women hired by Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering to complete the Henry Draper Catalogue, with the goal of mapping and defining every star in the sky to a photographic magnitude of about 9.

In 1925 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate of science from Oxford University.

Annie Jump Cannon's career in astronomy lasted for more than 40 years. During her career she helped women gain acceptance and respect within the scientific community. The American Astronomical Society presents the Annie Jump Cannon Award annually to female astronomers for distinguished work in astronomy.

 

14th December 1944

Fred Watson. English-born astronomer and popular scientist in Australia. In 1995 he became Astronomer in charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, but is best known for his work in science outreach, writing many books, as well as musical and choral works. He also has a weekly radio show on Radio ABC. In January 2010 he was made a member of the Order of Australia for services to astronomy, particularly the promotion and popularisation of space science through public outreach.Fred says he's spent so many years working in large telescope domes that he has started to look like one !! …Fred has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won't be his fault !! ...

 

 

18th December 1951

Andrew "Andy" Thomas, AO (pictured above courtesy NASA). Australian with dual Australian / American citizenship. He became a U.S. citizen in December 1986 to gain entry to NASA's astronaut program and was selected as an astronaut in 1992. He flew four missions over 12 years, spending a total of 6 months in space including a stint on the Mir space station. He retired from NASA in 2014 after 22 years of service.

 

11th December 1863

Annie Jump Cannon. American astronomer whose cataloguing work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification. In 1896 she became a member of the Harvard Computers a group of women hired by Harvard Observatory director Edward C. Pickering to complete the Henry Draper Catalogue, with the goal of mapping and defining every star in the sky to a photographic magnitude of about 9.

In 1925 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate of science from Oxford University.

Annie Jump Cannon's career in astronomy lasted for more than 40 years. During her career she helped women gain acceptance and respect within the scientific community. The American Astronomical Society presents the Annie Jump Cannon Award annually to female astronomers for distinguished work in astronomy.

 

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