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10 Things for the Week of December 1 - 7
Columnist: The Authors

10 Things for the Week of December 1 - 7
29 November 2013

Updated: December 2, 2013

It's Celebration Week -- and there's a lot to celebrate: an exciting comet passage, four mission anniversaries and two birthdays.


It may be over for comet ISON, but the science given to us from this wonderful comet is only just beginning.

Access all of our comet ISON related news, imagery, video and materials in our comet ISON toolkit.


On Monday, December 2nd the moon will be new.


Tuesday, December 3rd it is the 40th anniversary of the Pioneer 10 flyby of Jupiter (1973). Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to fly through the asteroid belt, the first to fly close to Jupiter and the first to cross Neptune's orbit on a course to leave our solar system.

4. 35 YEARS

Wednesday, December 4th is the 35th anniversary of Pioneer Venus 1's orbit insertion at Venus (1978). Pioneer Venus 1 was the first spacecraft to map the surface of Venus.


Wednesday is also the 192nd anniversary of German astronomer Wilhelm Tempel's birth. Temple discovered several comets, including comet 9P/Tempel in 1867. Deep Impact and Stardust each conducted missions at this comet.


Of interest, the day before (Tuesday, December 3rd) comet 9P/Tempel will be at opposition (3.754 AU). This means that this comet and the sun will be in opposite sides of the sky.


December 4th appears to be a busy day for space. Back in 1996, "a little rover that did" was launched from Earth to Mars. It's Pathfinder's 17th anniversary of launch -- the Sojourner rover more than earned her driving license.

Pathfinder was the first spacecraft to bounce on another planet and the Sojourner rover was the first wheeled rover to explore another planet other than the moon. Sojourner led the way for Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.


December 7th is the 18th anniversary of the Galileo probe's descent into Jupiter.

This probe was the first to sample the atmosphere of a gas planet. During its 58-minute life, the probe penetrated 200 km (124 miles) into Jupiter's violent atmosphere before it was crushed, melted and/or vaporized by the pressure and temperature of the atmosphere.


December 7th is also the 108th anniversary of the birth of astronomer Gerard Kuiper.

Kuiper predicted the existence of the Kuiper Belt in 1951. The Kuiper Belt is a doughnut-shaped ring, extending just beyond the orbit of Neptune from about 30 to 55 AU. New Horizons, the first mission to the Kuiper Belt and an object that resides there (Pluto), is scheduled to arrive in 2015.


Explore the Kuiper Belt in our Kids section.

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Last Updated: 2 Dec 2013