March 12, 2018 - Splitting up the Ship

Splitting up the Ship  A French astronomer born 305 years ago this week changed the way we talk about constellations. During a multi-year scientific expedition to South Africa in the mid-1700s, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille calculated the shape of Earth’s southern hemisphere, measured the lunar and solar parallax, and observed 10,000 southern stars. He also created fourteen new constellations and split up Argo Navis, the largest constellation of all, which had been recognized since Ptolemy’s time. Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology, became four smaller nautical constellations: Carina (the keel of the ship), Puppis (the stern), Vela (the sails), and Pyxis (the compass).  This star-forming region is embedded deep within the Carina Nebula, in the erstwhile Argo Navis.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Weekly Calendar

March 12 - 18, 2018

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 12

1835: Simon Newcomb born
1981: Victor Savinykh becomes 100th person to travel in space, Soyuz T-4 mission
2015: Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission launched

Moon phase Tuesday 13

1781: William Herschel discovers Uranus
1855: Percival Lowell born
1989: STS-29 Discovery launched

Moon phase Wednesday 14

1835: Giovanni Schiaparelli born
1879: Albert Einstein born
1934: Gene Cernan born
1986: Giotto flies by Halley’s Comet
1995: Soyuz TM-21 launched, first Russian mission with American on board
2016: ExoMars launched

Moon phase Thursday 15

Mercury at greatest elongation (18° E)

1713: Nicolas de Lacaille born
1932: Alan Bean born
1975: Helios 1 launched
2009: STS-119 Discovery launched

Moon phase Friday 16

1750: Caroline Herschel born
1926: Robert Goddard launches first liquid fuel rocket
1966: Gemini VIII launched
1975: Mariner 10’s 3rd Mercury flyby

Moon phase Saturday 17

St. Patrick’s Day

New Moon 9:12 AM ET
Mercury 4° north of Venus

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 Sunday 18

Mercury 8° north of Moon
Venus 4° 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
2016Soyuz TMA-20M launched carrying ISS Expedition 47/48 crew

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