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March 17, 2014 - Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace, born 265 years ago this week, was one of the most highly regarded theorists of his day. Laplace used differential calculus to confirm Newton’s earlier studies on the movement of bodies in space. He also advanced the nebular hypothesis, which is now the most widely accepted explanation for the formation of solar systems. According to the hypothesis, stars form from the gravitational collapse of large, dense clouds of molecular hydrogen. The process also results in the creation of a large rotating protoplanetary disk surrounding the star (as shown in this artist’s concept above), from which planets may eventually form. Allegedly, Laplace’s last words were “What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.”

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Weekly Calendar

March 17-23, 2014

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 17

St. Patrick’s Day

1930: Jim Irwin born
1958: Vanguard 1 launched, first solar-powered satellite
1972: NASA issues request for proposals for Space Shuttle
2011: MESSENGER becomes first spacecraft to orbit Mercury

Moon phase Tuesday 18

Mars 3° north of Moon

1965: Voskhod 2 launched, Alexei Leonov takes world’s first spacewalk
1980: Soviet rocket explosion kills 50 workers at Plesetsk launch pad

Moon phase Wednesday 19


1970: First powered flight of X-24A lifting body

Moon phase Thursday 20

Equinox 12:57 PM ET
Saturn 0.2° north of Moon

Moon phase Friday 21

1965: Ranger 9 launched

Moon phase Saturday 22

Mercury 1.2° south of Neptune
Venus at greatest elongation (47° W)

1982: STS-3 Columbia launched
1996: STS-76 Atlantis launched
1997: Comet Hale-Bopp closest approach to Earth

Moon phase Sunday 23

Last Qtr Moon 9:46 PM ET

1749: Pierre Laplace born
: John William Draper takes first photograph of Moon
1912: Wernher von Braun born
1965: Gemini III launched
2001: Mir space station reenters atmosphere

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