Season's Greetings to astronomy.bellaonline readers. Hanukah is over, the solstice has been, and now many of you will be about to celebrate to Christmas or Yule.
There is no new article now, though a few are in the draft stage for the next week or so. However I've collected some Christmas anniversaries.
*Cassini discovered Saturn's moon Rhea on December 23, 1672.*
I'll be publishing an updated article on Rhea in a few days, which includes the recent findings from the Cassini orbiter.
*Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642.*
Newton was an eccentric and awkward man, but one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. He formulated a theory of gravitation which helped to lay the foundations of modern astronomy. Einstein's gravitational theory includes Newton's theory as one example of General Relativity.
*Astronaut Michael Phillip Anderson was born on Christmas Day 1959.*
I would also like to pay a small tribute to astronaut Michael Anderson, who died, along with six others, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the air not long from touchdown on February 01, 2003.
*Venera 11 lander landed on Venus on Christmas Day, 1978*
As part of the USSR's Venera 11 mission, the lander transmitted data for over an hour and a half until it got out of range of the Venera 11 orbiter. Nothing lasts long on the surface of Venus, but there was no actual data about its end.
*Beagle 2 did not phone home on Christmas Day 2003.*
Beagle 2 was a probe that went to Mars with Mars Express, a European Space Agency (ESA) mission. It was deployed successfully from Mars Express and was due to send confirmation of a successful landing to NASA's orbiting Mars Odyssey. This confirmation never came and despite much theorizing, we still don't know what went wrong.
*Huygens probe separated from Cassini on Christmas Day 2004*
The year after unsuccessful Beagle 2, the Huygens probe separated successfully from Cassini. It then went on to land on Titan on January 14, 2005. It was the first ever accomplished in the outer solar system
*Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast from the Moon*
The astronauts of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, were the first humans genuinely to leave the Earth. Others had left the surface of the Earth, but not to travel into the gravitational field of another heavenly body. They were also the first to see, with their own eyes, the far side of the Moon.
"Awesome" is an overused word, but this must have been a genuinely awesome experience. On Christmas Eve, they broadcast from lunar orbit, reading passages from the Book of Genesis of the Bible. Here is a link to a transcript and audio fileshttp://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo8_xmas.html
Whatever your beliefs and whatever you will be done in the next few days, I hope we could all agree with the message:
PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO ALL.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor