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September 10, 2012 - The Stars in Their Courses

The Stars in Their Courses Sir James Jeans, born 135 years ago this week in England, is not a familiar name to many people today, but a few generations ago he was one of the most famous scientists alive. After a distinguished career as a mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, Jeans spent his later years as a tremendously successful popularizer of science for the general public. He gave lectures, made serialized “wireless” broadcasts, and wrote half a dozen best-selling books, among them The Stars in Their Courses, a 1931 primer on astronomy. At the time, new discoveries about the size and distance of galaxies, or “star cities” as Jeans called them, were revealing that the Milky Way is “only one of a vast number of similar systems,” like galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128), seen in this Hubble Telescope image.

Image credit: NASA / ESA / the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Weekly Calendar

September 10-16, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 10

Mercury in superior conjunction

1857: James Keeler born
1967: Surveyor 5 lands on Moon
1978: Venera 11 launched
2011: GRAIL spacecraft launched

Moon phase Tuesday 11

1877: James Jeans born
1985: International Cometary Explorer satellite probes Comet Giacobini-Zinner (first comet flyby)
1997: Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars

Moon phase Wednesday 12

Venus 4° north of Moon

1959: Luna 2 launched
1966: Gemini XI launched
1970: Luna 16 launched
1991: STS-48 Discovery launched
1992: STS-47 Endeavour launched
1993: STS-51 Discovery launched

Moon phase Thursday 13

1977: Second glide test of Space Shuttle Enterprise
1978: Venera 12 launched

Moon phase Friday 14

1966: Gemini XI, docked with Agena booster rocket, reaches 850-mile-high orbit

Moon phase Saturday 15

New Moon 10:11 PM ET

1965: “Lost in Space” premieres
1968: Zond 5 launched, first circumlunar spaceflight with living creatures (tortoises)

Moon phase Sunday 16

Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset

1848: First observation of Hyperion, moon of Saturn
1996: STS-79 Atlantis launched

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.