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In this month: April

12 April 1633

The inquisition of Galileo by the Roman Catholic church begins. He was ordered to turn himself in to the Holy Office to begin trial for holding the belief that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which was deemed heretical by the Catholic Church. He was found guilty and agreed to stop teaching and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It took more than 300 years for the Catholic Church to admit that Galileo was right and to clear his name of heresy. The painting below is by Cristiano Banti and it depicts this scene as it was imagined in the mid 19th Century.

6 April 1955

Two American astronomers, Bernard Burke and Kenneth Franklin, present their findings of radio signals coming from Jupiter to the American Astronomical Society. While collecting data they observed a spike in radio transmission at about the same time every night which appeared to be coming from Jupiter. The discovery allowed them to more precisely calculate how long it takes Jupiter to revolve around its axis. The result? A single day on Jupiter was calculated to last only about 10 hours.

28 April 2001

The era of commercial spaceflight begins with the first space tourist, American businessman Dennis Tito, launching on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. He spent 7 days, 22 hours, 4 minutes in space and orbited the Earth 128 times. He reportedly payed $20 million for his flight . . . that’s $105,263.00 per hour.!!!

BORN

12 April 1851

Edward Walter Maunder. English astronomer. Best remembered for his study of sunspots and the solar magnetic cycle that led to his identification of the period from 1645 to 1715 of low sunspot activity that is known as the Maunder Minimum.

In 1890 Maunder was a driving force in the foundation of the British Astronomical Association. He wanted an association of astronomers open to every person interested in astronomy especially women. He was President of the BAA from 1894-1896, the first editor of the Journal of the BAA, and at various times director of its Mars Section, the Star Colour Section and Solar Section director. His wife, Annie Maunder (nee Russell) was an Astrographic Catalogue star observer, measurer and computer at Royal Observatory Greenwich. The image shown here is of the Maunders arriving in India from the ROG website.

19 April 1894

Pelageya Fedorovna Shajn. Russian astronomer. First woman to discover a minor planet at the Simeiz Observatory, Crimea in 1928. Pelageya also discovered numerous asteroids and about 140 variable stars and co-discovered the periodic, Jupiter-family comet 61P/Shajn–Schaldach.

15 April 1900

Wolfgang Pauli. Austrian born Swiss/American theoretical physicist. One of the pioneers in quantum physics. In 1945 he was the awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the Pauli exclusion principle which states that in an atom no two electrons can occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. Pauli made major contributions to quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and solid-state physics, and he successfully hypothesized the existence of the neutrino.

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