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Chronology and History of Astronomy

Updated on May 29, 2013

2300 BC: Chinese astronomers made their earliest observations.

2000: Babylonian priests made their first observational records.

1814: Fraunhofer first studied absorption lines in the solar spectrum.

365: The Chinese observed the satellites of Jupiter with the naked eye.

3rd century: Aristarchus argued that the sun is the center of the solar system.

2nd century: Ptolemy’s complicated Earth-centered system was promulgated, which dominated the astronomy of the Middle Ages.

1543: Copernicus revived the ideas of Aristarchus in De Revolutionbus.

1608: Lippershey invented the telescope, which was first used by Galileo 1609.

1633: Galileo’s theories were condemned by the Inquisition.

1609: Kepler’s first two laws of planetary motion were published (the third appeared 1619).

1675: The Royal Greenwich Observatory was founded in England.

1632: Leiden established the world’s first official observatory.

1687: Newton’s Principia was published, including his ‘law of universal gravitation’.

1781: Herschel discovered Uranus and recognized stellar systems beyond our Galaxy.

1796: Laplace elaborated his theory of the origin of the solar system.

1718: Halley predicted the return of the comet named after him, observed 1758: it was last seen 1986.

1801: Piazzi discovered the first asteroid, Ceres.

1846: Neptune was identified by Galle, following predictions by Adams and Leverrier.

1900: Stonehenge was constructed: first phase.

1859: Kirchoff explained dark lines in the sun’s spectrum.

1887: The earliest photographic star charts were produced.

1889: E E Barnard took the first photographs of the Milky Way.

1890: The first photograph of the spectrum was taken.

1908: Fragment of comet fell at Tungusta; Siberia.

1920: Eddington began the study of interstellar matter.

            Hubble proved that the galaxies are systems independent of the Milky Way, and by 1930 had confirmed the concept of an expanding universe.

1930: The planet Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory, Arizona, USA.

1931: Jansky founded radioastronomy.

1945: Radar contact with the moon was established by Z Bay of Hungary and the US Army Signal Corps Laboratory.

1948: The 200-inch Hale reflector telescope was installed at Mount Palomar, California, USA.

1955: The Jodrell Bank telescope ‘dish’ in England was completed.

1957: The first Sputnik satellite (USSR) opened the age of space observation.

1962: The first X-ray source was discovered in Scorpio.

1963: The first quasar was discovered.

1967: The first pulsar was discovered by Jocelyn Bell.

1969: The first manned moon landing was made by US astronauts.

1976: A 236-inch reflector telescope was installed at Mount Semirodniki (USSR).

1977: Uranus was discovered to have rings.

1977: The spacecraft Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, passing Jupiter and Saturn 1979-81.

1978: The spacecraft Pioneer Venus 1 and 2 reached Venus.

1978: A satellite of Pluto, Charon, was discovered by James Christie of the US Naval Observatory.

1979: The UK infrared telescope (UKIRT) was established on Hawaii.

1985: Halley’s comet returned.

1986: Voyager 2 flew by Uranus and discovered ten new moons.

1987: Bright supernova visible to the naked eye for the first time since 1604.

1989: Voyager 2 flew by Neptune.


The Hutchinson Encyclopedic Dictionary

Random Century Group

London, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Johannesburg



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