This Day In Astro History

Elisabetta (Betty) Pierazzo
1963-2011 Faith 7 Mission Patch
Mission Patch

la Caille
la Caille

May 15

2013 - Mars Rover Opportunity breaks off-world vehicular distance record, from 1973 held by Lunakhod 2 (USSR) in 1973. The total distance traveled since Opportunity's January 2004 Mars landing was 35.760 kilometers or 22.220 miles.

2011 - Death of Elisabetta (Betty) Pierazzo, age 47, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tuscon, Arizona. Her area of expertise lay in impact modeling throughout the solar system, and she was an expert on the astrobiological and environmental effects of impacts on Earth and Mars. Minor Planet 15339 was named for her. Find the "Explorer's Guide to Impact Craters" here.

1963 - The launch of the final Mercury mission, Mercury-Atlas 9 with astronaut L. Gordon Cooper on board. He becomes the first American to spend more than a day in space.

1960 - The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 4.

1958 - The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 3.

1857 - Birthday, Williamina Paton Fleming, Scottish astronomer who helped develop a common designation system for stars and discoverer of the Horeshead Nebula in 1888.

1836 - In Scotland Francis Baily, a British explorer and stockbroker who turned to astronomy at the age of 50,  observed this day's total solar eclipse for which he explained the phenomenon at the beginning and ending of totality now known as Baily's Beads. Baily helped found the Royal Astronomical Society of London, revised star catalogs, and studied meteorology. He died August 30, 1844.

1713 - Nicholas Louis de la Caille's birthday (or de Lacaille), French astronomer and mapmaker who demonstrated that the Earth bulged at the equator. From 1751 to 1753 he mapped the southern skies from The Cape of Good Hope and established the 14 "modern" constellations there.

1618 - Johannes Kepler confirms his previously rejected discovery of the third law of planetary motion.
horsehead nebula
Horsehead Nebula

1836 eclipse path
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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