10 Things for the Week of March 10 - 16
8 March 2013
Albert Einstein once said that, "[t]he most beautiful experience we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science ..."
Mysteries, questions and the search for answers drive technology. This week you will not only be able to view a comet (a space object that was once considered very mysterious), but also remember many anniversaries of discoveries, inventions and people that have changed the way we interact with our world and other worlds within our solar system.
1. COMET PANSTARRS
Comet PANSTARRS will grace the sunset skies this week. It is indeterminate whether this comet will make a good show, but comets can be quite the showstoppers. So go on out at sunset and look to the western horizon for a view of this space wonder. (March 10th, 12th and 13th are all listed as good days to view the comet.)
2. COMET HALLEY
A true showstopper visited Earth back in 1986. Comet Halley returns to Earth every 76 years, and on March 14th we will celebrate 27 years since the Giotto spacecraft encountered and imaged this comet. Giotto, Europe's first deep space mission, was a resounding success. Giotto survived an intense battering as it closed in to a then-record of 605 km (376 miles) from the comet's core and sent back about 2,000 images.
3. TECHNOLOGY TESTER
Monday, March 11th marks the 53rd anniversary of the launch of Pioneer 5. Pioneer 5 was a technology test mission, which was also sent to confirm scientists' theories of an interplanetary magnetic field. It was the findings of Pioneer 5 that led to the success of Pioneers 10 and 11 -- the first missions to the outer solar system, and the first spacecraft to visit gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.
4. PLANET PREDICTOR
March 11th is also the 202nd birthday of Urbain Le Verrier (1811-1877). Le Verrier was the mathematician responsible for the discovery of Neptune by predicting the position of the planet. Neptune was the first planet located through mathematical predictions rather than through regular observations of the sky.
"The creative principle [of science] resides in mathematics." -- Albert Einstein
5. TELESCOPIC FINDING
Wednesday, March 13th is the 232nd anniversary of William Herschel's discovery of the planet Uranus: Uranus was the first planet found with the help of a telescope.
6. E = MC2
Thursday, March 14th would have been the 134th birthday of Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Where would we be without Albert Einstein and his theories of relativity? It was through the genius of Einstein that we now have TVs, lasers, GPS systems, remote controls, digital cameras, solar cells and so much more.
7. HiRISE TO THE OCCASION
Speaking of cameras, it has been seven years (Sunday, March 10th) since Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, began orbiting Mars. The beautiful pictures that HiRISE sends back to Earth have revolutionized our view of the dusty red planet to one of varied landscapes, features and colors.
8. GRAVITATIONAL ASSIST
On Saturday, March 16th, it will have been 38 years since Mariner 10 flew by innermost planet Mercury. Gravity may not be responsible for people falling in love, but it was responsible for getting pioneering spacecraft Mariner 10 to the planet Mercury. Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to reach one planet by using the gravity of another planet (in this case, Venus) to alter its speed and trajectory. This has become an extremely important technique.
"Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love." -- Albert Einstein
Robert Goddard, who is known as the father of modern rocketry (and who was a contemporary of Albert Einstein), launched his first liquid fueled rocket 87 years ago this week (March 16th).
"Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace." -- Robert Goddard
10. FUN FACT
In 1876 (on March 10th) the first telephone call was placed by its inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
Read More by Phil Davis