In this month: June
2 June 1966
Surveyor 1, the first of the Surveyor robotic spacecraft, soft lands on the Moon. It was the first American spacecraft to achieve a soft landing on an extra-terrestrial body. NASA’s Surveyor Program sent seven robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon, its primary goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon in preparation for the Apollo Moon landings.
Image Left: Surveyor 1 spacecraft sitting silently on Oceanus Procellarum, the first US spacecraft to land on another planet (June 2, 1966). The image was taken in the lunar afternoon such that the sun in low on the western horizon and the 3.3 meter tall spacecraft casts a long shadow (almost 15 m long) to the east [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The program had other functions such as the ability of spacecraft to make midcourse corrections and carried instruments to help evaluate the suitability of landing sites for crewed Apollo landings. All seven spacecraft are still on the Moon, none of the missions included returning them to Earth.
8 June 2004
The second most recent transit of Venus occurs (the last one being in 2012). The event was significant as it was the first transit after the invention of broadcast media (broadcast media is media of audio or video content that can include television, radio, internet and other electronic mass communications).
It was also of interest to scientists attempting to measure the pattern of light dimming as Venus blocked out some of the Sun's light in order to refine techniques in the search for exoplanets.
Transits of Venus are among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena. Only eight have occurred since the invention of the telescope in the 17th century.
28 June 2011
Kerberos, one of the moons of Pluto, is discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope and confirmed in subsequent Hubble pictures. The moon was not seen in earlier Hubble images as the exposure times were shorter. Located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, which Hubble discovered in 2005, it appears to be smaller than scientists expected and has a highly reflective surface.
Originally designated S/2011 (134340) 1 (and sometime referred to as P4), Kerberos is named after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. All of Pluto's moons are named for mythological figures associated with the Underworld.
12 June 1922
Margherita Hack (pictured above). Italian astrophysicist. She was professor of astronomy at the University of Trieste from 1964 to 1992 and the first Italian woman to serve as Director of the Trieste Astronomical Observatory from 1964 to 1987. Under her leadership the observatory became one of the foremost research centres in Italy. On her death she left her personal library containing 24,000 books on astronomy to the city of Trieste. The asteroid 8558 Hack, discovered in 1995, is named in her honour.
20 June 1927
William “Bill” Ashley Bradfield AM. New Zealand born/Australian astronomer. He was an amateur astronomer and a prolific discoverer of comets. He gained a world record by discovering 18 comets, all of which bear his name as the sole discoverer. His discoveries were particularly notable because he worked alone to discover them using home-made telescopic equipment. He did not use photographic or computerized detection equipment, instead relying purely on visual sweeping across the skies.
6 June 1939
William Kenneth Hartmann. American planetary scientist and space artist. He was the first to convince the scientific mainstream that the Earth had once been hit by a planet sized body - Theia - creating both the Moon and the Earth's 23.5° tilt. He has long been one of America's leading space artists and has written and illustrated numerous books on the history of Earth and the Solar System.
In 1997 he was the first recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science from the American Astronomical Society, Division for Planetary Sciences.