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December 28, 2020 - First Harvest of Asteroids

First Harvest of Asteroids  Astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi observed a moving point of light 220 years ago this week, which he first thought to be a comet, but soon believed was “something better.” What Piazzi observed was the first of a class of objects that would be known, because of their starlike appearance, as asteroids. Piazzi suggested naming the object after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvests (from which we derive the word “cereal”). At 950 km (600 mi) in diameter, Ceres is the largest of thousands of known asteroids that generally orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Since 2006 it has been labeled a dwarf planet. Only one spacecraft, Dawn, has visited Ceres. It orbited Ceres beginning in 2015 and returned data through 2018. This image shows Occator Crater on Ceres.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

December 28, 2020 - January 3, 2021

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

 

Moon phase Monday 28

1882: Arthur Eddington born

Moon phase Tuesday 29

Full Moon 10:28 PM ET

1980: STS-1 leaves Vehicle Assembly Building and rolls out to launch pad

Moon phase Wednesday 30

1957: Wernher von Braun proposes the Saturn-class launch vehicle

Moon phase Thursday 31

New Year's Eve

1864: Robert Aitken born
2004: Cassini makes first flyby of Iapetus

Moon phase Friday 1

New Year's Day

1801: Giuseppe Piazzi discovers asteroid Ceres
2019: New Horizons flies by Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 Ultima Thule

Moon phase Saturday 2

Earth at perihelion
Moon 5° north of Regulus

1900: Leslie Peltier born
1920: Isaac Asimov born
1959: Luna 1 is first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravitational field
1972: Mariner 9 begins mapping Mars
2004: Stardust encounters Comet Wild 2

Moon phase Sunday 3

Quadrantid meteor shower

1962: NASA publicly announces and names Gemini program
2004: Mars rover Spirit lands on Mars
2019: Chang'e 4 and Yutu 2 rover make first soft landing on Moon's far side

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