This Day In Astro History


February 18

2001 - Astronomers read the spectral light of the most ancient structures in the universe: quasar "RD J030117+002025" in the constellation Cetus. "In images, quasars can look very much like stars, but a spectral analysis of a quasar's light reveals its true character. This quasar told us that it was 'An Ancient' -- one of the Universe's first structures. -- Dr. Daniel Stern, JPL Light from this quasar has journeyed about 13 billion years. That means the quasar existed at a time when the Universe was less than 8 percent of its current age. The paper, in Astrophysical Journal Letters, was written by Daniel Stern and Peter Eisenhardt of JPL; Hyron Spinrad, Steve Dawson, and Adam Stanford of the University of California; Andrew Bunker of Cambridge University; and Richard Elston of the University of Florida.

1977 The Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle is carried on its maiden "flight" on top of a Boeing 747.

1930 -Pluto found by Clyde Tombaugh during a search with plates taken on the Lowell Observatory. (Flagstaff) 13" telescope. When Pluto was discovered it was designated the solar system's ninth and most distant planet. Since then, we have discovered how "unlike a planet" it really is. Far smaller than originally thought, smaller than our own moon and even smaller than seven of the solar system's moons (the Moon, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Titan and Triton). It has an odd elliptical orbit which is tilted 17 degrees with respect to the solar plane. It is more like the largest of a group of thousands of icy objects that orbit at the edge of the solar system. These Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are classified by number. As the number is close approaching 10,000 some astronomers proposed reclassifying Pluto as the largest of these TNOs. The International Astronomical Union, which has authority over astronomical names,initially rejected the proposed status change. However on August 6, 2006, the IAU General Assembly voted on the definition of a planet, thereby demoting Pluto to the status of aTrans-Neptunian Object.

Pluto discovery
Pluto discovery plates
An image and data from the most distant, most ancient quasar ever found (center red) describes an early universe.
"RD J030117+002025" The quasar is at the red object in the center of this image.


enterprise
Space Shuttle Enterprise in flight tests over New York City.
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It is my conclusion that human evolution and the motions of matter in space are intrinsically linked. The observation and understanding of the complexity of biological history on Earth cannot be complete without the tandem observation and understanding of a dynamic greater cosmos. - SpaceGene