Space Exploration Chronology: 100,000 BC-1500-1600-1700-1800-1899 AD | Discoveries Time-Line



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Dawn of Mankind

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible in the skies with a naked eye


These planets were not discovered, in a traditional sense, because they require no instrumentation to be seen in the sky. However, they were all mistaken for stars throughout much of the human history. Before the 20th century, many speculated that all of these worlds were inhabited by some kind of living creatures.
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~270 BC
Aristarchus develops a heliocentric model

According to secondary documents, Greek Astronomer and Mathematician Aristarchus (310 BC – 230 BC) presented a heliocentric cosmic model, in which Earth rotated around the Sun, as is the case in reality. It took over 18 centuries for the scientific community to even begin embracing this concept. Aristarchus lacked any appropriate instruments to make appropriate observations, he used nothing but logic to derive the correct conceptual model of the Solar System. There is evidence that Aristarchus had also succeeded in assigning correct order of the known planets in the Solar System. The heliocentric theory was criticized and rejected in his time.(1)



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~1513
Copernicus explains heliocentric model and more in "Little Commentary"


Around 1513 or possibly earlier, Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) began circulating his manuscript titled "Little Commentary" among close friends and scholars. It explained primarily that the Earth is not in the center of the Universe and basic physical relationship of our planet Earth and its Moon. Instead, it was the Sun, he argued, that is center of the Universe (which is incorrect, it is in the center of the Solar System) and that Earth was in constant motion. Copernicus stressed that visible motion in the skies results from the motion of Earth, not of extraterrestrial bodies. The latter is not entirely correct, because all cosmic bodies are in some state of motion. Though majority of visible motion from our perspective does, largely, result from the Earth's motion alone. Nicolaus Copernicus established a foundation for future astronomers to build upon. It is through his efforts, that people began to comprehend the reality of their place in cosmic perspective.(2)



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1584
Giordano Bruno theorizes about extraterrestrials and infinity of the Universe
Fragmet of Giordano Bruno's statue. Credit: Jastrow at Wikipedia

In 1584, a brilliant Italian of short stature, whose true likeness has been lost through the ages, was taking understanding of the Universe farther than the masses would accept for centuries to come. Giordano Bruno developed the very concept of space, which he called Aethar. He came to a conclusion that space exerted no resistance on the heavenly bodies. Bruno theorized that basic building blocks in the Universe are the same in their elementary composition. He was able to offer the world a realistic portrayal of various cosmic processes and conditions: the Sun, according to Giordano Bruno, was a regular star, one among infinite amount of others, which we see at night and that other stars also had planetary bodies orbiting around them. The latter had been conclusively proven only in the 1990s with the discovery of an exoplanet. Furthermore, the Italian mathematician and astronomer hypothesized that the planetary bodies revolving around other stars had extraterrestrial biology.
He was convicted of heresy in 1600 by the Catholic Inquisition for his revolutionary views on religion and scripture. Upon hearing the verdict, the great scientist spoke with confidence, challenging the Church and dogma of all times: “Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it.” Giordano Bruno, a martyr for truth, reason, science, and tolerance, was burned alive at the stake. Even then, officials feared his words of reason and somehow restricted his tongue so that he could not address the public as he was dying.
22 kilometer long lunar impact crater was named in his honor.
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1610

Jupiter's prominent moons: Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto, are discovered by Galileo Galilei
Photo credit: Courtesy of NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org.

There is some controversy as to whether Galileo Galilei or Simon Marius was the first astronomer to observe these moons. In modern times this group of moons will be collectively known as Galilean Satellites. The discovery marked a point in human history when astronomical observations became sophisticated enough to identify and recognize some moons around other planets of the Solar System.
Four hundred years later, these moons would prove to be some of the most fascinating worlds in the Solar System, from the perspective of Astrobiology. Names of these moons, according to available records, originate with another famous astronomer, Johannes Kepler. This period became known in history as the Scientific Revolution.(3)


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1655

Dutch Astronomer Christiaan Huygens discovers Titan, Saturn's largest moon
Click on the image to enlarge.
Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona



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1687

Isaac Newton published Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, explaining gravitation and laws of motion
Click on the image to enlarge.
Photograph © Andrew Dunn



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1781

The planet of Uranus is discovered by William Hershel
Photo credit: Courtesy of NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org.
Click on the image to enlarge it


William Hershel named the newly discovered planet in honor of King George III of England, a name that did not stick. Alternative name was Hershell, in honor of the discoverer, which shared the same uncelebrated fate. The name of the planet officially became Uranus in 1850, to follow the tradition of naming planets after Roman mythological gods.

Photo credit: NASA
Size comparison between Earth and Uranus



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1783

English scientist John Michell speculates about Black Holes


In a letter, discovered in the 1970s, John Michell exhibits extraordinary understanding of the cosmic processes in regards to gravity. He explains that when a star is massive enough, it will not allow even light to escape its graviational pull. What in modern times came to be known as Black Holes, Michell called Dark Stars. The 18th century scientist even proposed methods of measuring such processes by observing motions of a nearby star, when in a binary star system. He had calculated what the radius of a Black Hole (specifically of Event Horizon) would have to be in relation to mass. A calculation that was repeated more than a century later and became known as the Schwarzschild Radius. Michell advocated using a light refracting prism to measure decrease in starlight intensity due to gravitational shift. The astronomer noted that his theories would be more useful to future generations, due to the technical limitations of his day.

Unfortunately, by the time his studies on the subject resurfaced, they were no longer needed, for these calculations had already been produced by other individuals. His genius, that stretched from philosophy, geology, astronomy and other sciences, is only now being recognized.

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1846

The planet of Neptune is discovered by John Couch Adams
Photo credit: Courtesy of NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org.
Click on the image to enlarge it


Adams was an English astronomer and mathematician.

Courtesy of NASA/nasaimages.org
Real image of Neptune taken by Voyager 2 spacecraft in August 1989
Click on the image to enlarge it





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Sources
  1. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  2. Draper, John William "History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science" in Joshi, S. T., 1874 (2007). The Agnostic Reader. Prometheus. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-1-59102-533-7.
  3. Rosen, Edward (translator) (2004) [1939]. Three Copernican Treatises:The Commentariolus of Copernicus; The Letter against Werner; The Narratio Prima of Rheticus (Second Edition, revised ed.). New York, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 0486436055.
  4. List item 4
There is no God but a cosmic vastness; praise Reason, praise Truth!
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