Saturday, 19 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Skylab and that Solar Prominence Picture


Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA and was the United States' first space station. Skylab orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket. Three manned missions to the station, conducted between 1973 and 1974 using the Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) atop the smaller Saturn IB, each delivered a three-astronaut crew.

On December 19th 1973 the now famous picture of a giant solar prominence loop on the Sun was taken.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Duncan Liddel

Duncan Liddel 1561-1613

Duncan Liddel was born in Aberdeen in 1561 and died there on 17 December 1613. He lectured on Ptolemaic, Copernican and Tychonic cosmological systems. After receiving his early education in Aberdeen, Liddel departed for the Continent in 1579, where at the University of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder he studied mathematics, philosophy and medicine. When an epidemic struck Frankfurt in 1585, Liddel moved on to the University of Rostock.

In Rostock he was befriended by several eminent men including the astronomer and professor of medicine Henrich Brucaeus, It was probably due to Brucaeus that Liddel met the great astronomer Tycho Brahe, whom he visited at least twice at his observatory in Denmark in June 1587 and June 1588. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Henrietta Leavitt

Henrietta Swan Leavitt 1868-1921

Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born on July 4th, 1868 in Lancaster, Massachusetts. As a young child, her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Leavitt attended Oberlin College and in 1892 graduated from the Society for the Collegiate Instruction for Women, now known as Radcliffe College. She then traveled in America and in Europe during which time she lost her hearing. Three years after graduation, she became a volunteer research assistant at Harvard College Observatory. Seven years later, in 1902, Pickering hired her on the permanent staff.

Leavitt’s interest in astronomy began during her senior year in college when she took an astronomy class. She furthered her studies in astronomy with graduate work. As an assistant at Harvard College Observatory, though she had the ability, she was given little theoretical work. Pickering did not like his female staff to pursue such endeavors. Instead, she was given the position of chief of the photographic photometry department and was responsible for the care of telescopes.

Leavitt also was required to perform research from the observatory’s photographic plates collection. Using the plates, she was to determine a star’s magnitude. There was no standard for ascertaining magnitudes at the time. Leavitt devised a system, using “the north polar sequence” as a gage of brightness for stars during her investigations. This was quickly recognized by the scientific community as an important standard and in 1913, was adopted by the International Committee on Photographic Magnitudes.

Another area of research that Leavitt pursued was on variable stars and in 1908 she made her most important discovery. By studying Cepheid variables in the Small Magellanic Cloud, which are all about the same distance from Earth, Leavitt determined the absolute magnitudes of stars. Her study led to the period-luminosity relationship of these variables, which in turn led to the ability to determine distances of stars from a mere one hundred light years to ten million light years. Ejnar Hertzsprung used her discovery to plot the distance of stars; Harlow Shapley used it to measure the size of the Milky Way; and Edwin Hubble used her work to ascertain the age of the Universe.

Interestingly Delta Cephei the prototype Cepheid variable star was discovered by John Goodricke in York in 1784. He was also deaf!

Leavitt died on December 12th, 1921 from cancer. During her lifetime, she discovered over 1,200 variable stars, half the number of all such objects known at the time of her death. She was also a member of many organizations and a proponent for women in astronomy. She made monumental contributions to the advancement of astronomy and our understanding of our place in the Universe. There is no way of knowing what other contributions she would have made had she not died so young.

The asteroid 5383 Leavitt and the lunar crater Leavitt are named in her honour.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Annie Jump Cannon

Annie Jump Cannon, born December 11, 1863, Dover, Delaware, U.S.—died April 13, 1941, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cannon was the eldest daughter of Wilson Cannon, a Delaware state senator, and Mary Jump. She studied physics and astronomy at Wellesley College, graduating in 1884. In 1894 she returned to Wellesley for a year of advanced study in astronomy, and in 1895 she enrolled at Radcliffe in order to continue her studies under Edward C. Pickering, who was director of the Harvard College Observatory.

Aniie Jump Canon in Peru

In 1896 Cannon was named an assistant at the Harvard Observatory, becoming one of a group known as “Pickering’s Women.” There, joining Williamina P.S. Fleming and Antonia Maury, she devoted her energies to Pickering’s ambitious project, begun in 1885, of recording, classifying, and cataloging the spectra of all stars down to those of the ninth magnitude. Fleming had initially classified stellar spectra by letter in alphabetic sequence from A to Q, mainly according to the strength of their hydrogen spectral lines. Maury created a new scheme with 22 groups from I to XXII and further added three subdivisions based on the sharpness of the spectral lines. She also placed Fleming’s B stars before the A stars.

In a catalog of 1,122 stars published in 1901, Cannon drastically simplified Fleming’s scheme to the classes O, B, A, F, G, K, and M, and she retained P for planetary nebula and Q for unusual stars. She also added numerical divisions, further dividing each class into 10 steps from 0 to 9. It was soon realized that Cannon’s scheme actually was classifying stars according to their temperature, and her spectral classifications were universally adopted. She eventually obtained and classified spectra for more than 225,000 stars. Her work was published in nine volumes as the Henry Draper Catalogue (1918–24).

In 1911 Cannon succeeded Fleming as curator of astronomical photographs at the observatory. After 1924 she extended her work, cataloging tens of thousands of additional stars down to the 11th magnitude for the two-volume Henry Draper Extension (1925, 1949). In the course of her work, Cannon also discovered some 300 variable stars and 5 novae.

Among the numerous honours and awards accorded her were the first honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford to be awarded to a woman (1925) and the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1931. She was also the first woman to become an officer in the American Astronomical Society. In 1933 she established that organization’s Annie Jump Cannon Award, which is given to a North American female astronomer (within five years of receiving a doctorate) for her distinguished contribution to astronomy. It was only in 1938 that she was appointed to the Harvard faculty, when she was named William Cranch Bond Professor of Astronomy. Cannon officially retired from the observatory in 1940 but carried on research until her death the next year.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Helios 1

Helios 1

On December 10th 1974 Helios 1 a joint West German NASA project was launched.The mission returned useful data about the Sun’s magnetic field, the solar wind, and the relative strength of cosmic rays. The mission continued to send data until 1985.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Adrian Metuis

Adrian Metius 9th Dec 1571-26th Sept 1635

Adrian Metius was born at Alkmaar in Holland; he was a pupil of Tycho Brahe, he later became an astronomer, mathematician and military engineer. He made considerable improvements to the astronomical instruments of his time. 

In 1624 he wrote ‘De usu Globi Coelestis’ containing a description of a 7 feet iron radius mounted on a universal bearingwith sights at both ends. He died at Frankfurt in 1635.  

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc

Nicholas–Claude Fabri de Peiresc  December 1st 1580 – June 24th 1637

He was born in Provence, France in November 1610 he obtained a telescope from his brother in Paris and observed the moons of Jupiter from 25th November – 15th May 1612. He observed sunspots and on November 26th 1610 observed M42 the Orion Nebula. On 1ST March 1611 he discovered the visibility of stars in broad daylight when he saw the planet Mercury after sunrise. On 12th September 1611 he made a daylight observation of the planet Venus.

During 1633-34 he built an observatory on the top of his house in Aix, France, he obtained a telescope from Galileo in 1635. He also observed from Cairo, Aleppo and elsewhere in Europe. He showed that the Mediterranean Sea was 600 miles shorter than was accepted. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Lunar Eclipse and the Death of a Pope

Lunar Eclipse and the death of a Pope

On November 30th 1099 there was an eclipse of the Moon visible over Europe. The maximum part of the eclipse began at 16.14 UT (Universal Time) and lasted for 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Somewhat earlier on the year on July 29th Pope Urban II died. He is best remembered for starting the First Crusade an attempt to capture the Holy Lands which had been captured by the Muslims between 632-661. This crusade lasted from 1096-1099.

Urban II died on 29 July 1099, fourteen days after the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders, but before news of the event had reached Italy.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Bieled Meteor Shower

Bieled Meteor Shower

In a couple of weeks’ time, we will be treated to the annual and spectacular Geminid meteor shower, however on this day in 1872 astronomers were going to witness one of the most spectacular meteor showers ever seen.

When a comet orbits the Sun it leaves a trail of dust behind it, if the Earth passes through this trail of dust we see lots of meteors or shooting stars. We see a meteor shower there are several good ones each year, and then sometimes there are surprises!

Comet Biela was seen on 27th February 1826, it had been seen earlier in 1772 and 1805. Its orbit was worked out to be about 6 ¾ years, it was seen again in 1832 but missed in 1839 due to unfavourable conditions. In 1846 it was observed to have split into two pieces. This had never been seen before.

 When it returned in 1852 it was clearly two comets travelling together separated by about 1.5 million miles. Again conditions in 1859 were poor the return of 1866 was eagerly awaited but nothing was seen. Astronomers showed little interest in the return of 1872.

On November 27th 1872 the world was treated to a fantastic meteor shower of several thousand meteors per hour entering the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up.
There have been many searches to try to see if comet Biela is still orbiting the Sun, astronomers believe that there have been other major meteor outbursts connected with the comet in 524 AD, 1741, 1798, 1830, 1838 1885 and 2011.

There is even a suggestion that the great fire in Chicago in 1871 was caused by a piece of comet Biela crashing into a barn and starting the fire!

Will comet Biela ever visit us again in the future? 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Astrognome Astronomy Canopus


The second brightest star in the sky, Canopus is not visible from Britain; however form Australia at this time of the year it is high in the sky. The magnitude of Canopus is -0.7 and is officially known as alpha Carinae (The Keel).

At one time Carina was the brightest star in the constellation of Argo Navis this was the ship that Jason and the Argonauts used in their quest for the Golden Fleece. Argo Navis was so large and unwieldy that it was broken up into Carine (the Keel), Puppis (the Poop), Vela (the Sails) and Pyxis (the Compass).

Canopus lies about 300 light years away, because it is so bright it is very easy to find. In fact Canopus has a diameter over 70 times that of the Sun!

This star occurs in various science fiction stories, In "Dune" written by Frank Herbert, the dusty planet of Arrakis (the setting of the first book in particular) is one of the planets circling Canopus.  It also featured in several Star Trek stories including "The Eye of the Beholder" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before."

Monday, 23 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Eclipse of the Moon 755 AD

Lunar Eclipse 755 AD

On November 23rd 755 AD an eclipse of the Moon was observed from England according to Simeon of Durham. The eclipse occurred near the star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus and the Moon turned a blood red colour. 

The planet Jupiter was so close to the Moon that during the latter stages of the eclipse Jupiter was occulted or was passed in front of by the Moon.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Venus Occults Jupiter 22/11/2065

Venus Occults Jupiter November 22nd 2065

In fifty years` time Venus will pass in front of or occult Jupiter. This is a rare event; the last time this happened was in 1818. The 1818 event occurred over the Far East and there is no record of any observations.

Unfortunately the 2065 event occurs at 12.47 UT when the two planets will be very close to the Sun making it very difficult or impossible to observe. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Astrognome Astronomy The Southern Birds

The Four Southern Birds

To observers in the southern hemisphere this time of year the four southern birds, Grus the Crane, Pave the Peacock, Phoenix the Phoenix and Tucana the Toucan are high in the sky. None of these birds are visible from Britain.

Grus is probably the most distinctive; the brightest star alpha at magnitude 1.7 is called Alnair which in Arabic means the ‘bright one’. The other bright star is beta at magnitude 2.1. The constellation was created in 1603 by the German astronomer Johann Bayer. In earlier middle age time Grus was known as Phoenicopterus the Flamingo.

Phoenix the Phoenix was also added to the night sky in 1603 by Bayer. It commemorates the mythical bird that burns itself to death and then rises from the ashes. It is not as conspicuous as Grus and only has one bright star alpha whose name is Ankaa has a magnitude of 2.4, the meaning of which is not certain.

The next bird is Pavo the Peacock there is one bright star alpha t magnitude 1.9 which surprisingly does not have a name. This constellation was created by the Dutch explorers Peter Keyser and Frederick de Houtman in 1595.

The last of the southern birds is Tucana the Toucan, this constellation was also created by the Dutch explorers Peter Keyser and Frederick de Houtman in 1595. The brightest star alpha is only of magnitude 2.9. However Tucana the Small Magellanic cloud.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Astrognome Astronomy Galaxies to the North and South

Galaxies to the North and South

At this time of year it is always great fun to try to find the Andromeda Galaxy the most distant object that can be seen with the eye without any optical aid. The Andromeda galaxy is about 2.2 million light years away. It is probably the most famous galaxy in the northern hemisphere.

However what observers in the northern hemisphere might be excused for forgetting is that this is also a good time of the year in the southern hemisphere to look at their most famous galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC & SMC).

 Compared to the Andromeda galaxy the LMC which is in the constellation of Dorado & SMC in the constellation of Tucana are pretty close at around 160,000 to 200,000 light years away. However they are much brighter and are easily visible to the unaided eye. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Pigott`s Comet

Comet Pigott

Edward Pigott one of the ‘Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy’ also discovered a comet. On November 19th 1783 he noticed a small nebulous patch in the constellation of Cetus. He discovered the comet using a 2.5 feet long telescope made by Dolland. The comet was below naked eye visibility when discovered. Pigott last saw the comet on December 3rd 1783. Pigott was the first Englishman to discover a comet and have it named after him.

The comet was then lost to astronomers, this was because there were so few observations of the comet that it was not possible to work out the comet’s orbit. It was assumed to be a lost comet.
Then in January of 2003 the LINEAR survey found a “new” comet with their telescopes outside of Socorro, New Mexico.  The comet was designated Comet C/2003 A1 (LINEAR), a suggestion was made that it might be a return of long-lost Comet Pigott. Unfortunately, it was not possible to make a definite link between the 2003 LINEAR comet and Piggot’s comet of 1783.

On the night of September 10th 2009, Rich Kowalski of the Catalina Sky Survey was surveying the sky for unknown comet and asteroids when he came across a possible new comet. It was none other than Comet Pigott. When discovered in 1783 the comet was bright enough to be seen in a small telescope, today a powerful telescope is needed as the comet is around magnitude 17. Today we know that the comet has an orbital period of around 6 years.

In a 226 year period the comet has changed its name three times from comet Pigott, to comet Pigott-LINEAR, to comet Pigott-LINEAR-Kowalski.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Lunokhod 1

Lunokhod 1

On 17 November 1970 an interesting space craft landed on the surface of the Moon.  It carried the first remotely controlled robotic lunar rover, Lunokhod 1. The Lunokhod looked like a ‘giant saucepan on wheels’. For the next ten months the rover was driven by operators in the Soviet Union, with the total distance traveled being about 10 km. For comparison, in six years of operation the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has traveled about 12 km.

After landing, the rover drove down a ramp onto the lunar surface and tested its eight wheels. The rover was driven by solar power during the day; at night it parked and relied on thermal energy from a polonium-210 radioisotope heater to survive the cold (-150°C).

Lunokhod 1 sent back valuable data concerning the composition of the soil, close up views of the local topography, and important measurements of the soil.

Contact was lost with the rover on September 14, 1971, a second rover Lunokhod 2 would land on the Moon on 16th January 1973. It would not be until 1997 that another remote controlled rover the Mars Pathfinder would travel on another extra-terrestrial body.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook John Goodricke begins his diary

November 16th 1781 John Goodricke begins his astronomical diary

John Goodricke was deaf and probably unable to speak, he moved to York in 1781 when he was just 17 years old, it was here that  on November 16th 1781 that he began his astronomical diary.

He would go on to explain why the star Algol in the constellation of Perseus varies in brightness, he also discovered the variable star Beta Lyra and the variable star Delta Cepheus, today Cepheid variables are used to work out the distances to other galaxies. He was one of the fathers of 'Variable Star Astronomy'

Tragically John Goodricke would die in 1786 before his 22nd birthday, probably from pneumonia.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Only Flight of the Buran


On November 15th 1988 the Russian Buran space shuttle took off for its maiden and as it turned out its only flight into space.

Buran landing after maiden flight
The American space shuttle programme is well known but what perhaps fewer people know is that the Russians also had a space shuttle, this was called Buran. The Buran (which means blizzard in Russian) was started in 1980. The idea was to have a reusable space shuttle to take Russians into space.

Buran being ferried to air show

The only Buran launch was from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which was unmanned, it  completed two orbits of the Earth, and then successfully returned. The second mission was scheduled for 1993 but due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union it never took place.

The Buran shuttle was destroyed in 2002 in a hangar at Baikonur when it collapsed during a massive storm.

Destruction of Buran

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Mariner 9 at Mars

Mariner 9

The first space craft to enter orbit around another planet Mariner 9 entered orbit around Mars on November 14th 1971. The first Mars mission Mariner 4 flew past the red planet in 1965 and disproved the idea of life on Mars. Mariners 6 and 7 flew by Mars in 1969 and sent back more photos. Mariner 5 was sent to study Venus, Mariner 8 failed to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.

Mariner 9 sent back the first really detailed images from the surface of Mars. Mariner 9 studied about 70% of the surface and sent back over 7,000 images, showing river beds, craters, massive extinct volcanoes including Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the Solar System. Mariner 9 images led directly to its reclassification from Nix Olympica, before Mariner 9 astronomers thought this was a mountain rather than a volcano.

Olympus Mons

Mars also has a grand canyon larger than the United States, it was named the Valles Marineris, in honour of Mariner 9 there was also evidence of wind and water erosion. Mars' small moons, Phobos and Deimos, were also photographed.

The mission was shut down in October 1972.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook First NEO

The first known NEO (Near Earth Object) passed by the Earth on October 30th 1937. The asteroid called Hermes missed the Earth by 485,000 miles which by today’s near misses is quite a distance.

 It worried astronomers because until Hermes, astronomers were skeptical about asteroids hitting the Earth. It was only recovered again 66 years later in 2003. Hermes crosses the Earth’s orbit twice every 777 days but it is usually at a great distance and normally very faint.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook King James I and the comet of 1618

King James and the poem of the comet

The great comet of 1618 was one of the most spectacular comets in history. It was reported to have a tail over 100 degrees long and to be reddish in colour and was visible in the day time. As with the great comet of 1843 it was discovered by many observers.

King James and the poem of the comet

The great comet of 1618 was one of the most spectacular comets in history. It was reported to have a tail over 100 degrees long and to be reddish in colour and was visible in the day time. As with the great comet of 1843 it was discovered by many observers.

King James I

The comet was so visible in the sky that King James 1 who was so interested in it wrote a poem about the comet.

“King James on the blazeing starr: Octo: 28: 1618”

You men of Britaine, wherefore gaze yee so
Uppon an Angry starr, whenh as yee know
The sun shall turne to darknesse, the Moon to blood
And then twill be to late for to turne good
O be so happy then while time doth last
As to remember Dooms day is not past
And misinterpret not, with vaine Conceit
The Caracter you see on Heaven gate.
Which though it bring the world some news from fate
The letters such as no man can translate
And for to guesse at God Almightys minde
Where such a thing might Cozen all mankinde
Wherfore I wish the Curious man to keep
His rash Imaginations till he sleepe
Then let him dreame of Famine plague & war
And thinke the match with spaine hath causd this star
Or let them thinke that if their Prince my Minion
Will shortly chang, or which is worse religion
And that he may have nothing elce to feare
Let him walke Pauls, and meet the Devills there
And if he be a Puritan, and scapes
Jesuites, salute them in their proper shapes
These Jealousys I would not have a Treason
In him whose Fancy overrules his Reason
Yet to be sure It did no harme, Twere fit
He would be bold to pray for no more witt
But onely to Conceale his dreame, for there
Be those that will beleive what he dares feare.

I wonder how many other monarchs wrote poems about astronomical events?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Samuel Heinrich Schwabe

Samuel Heinrich Schwabe

Born in Germany on the 25th October 1789, Samuel Heinrich Schwabe was a pharmacist, but he was also very interested in astronomy and in 1826 he started to study the Sun. At this time astronomers thought there might be a planet going around the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury, it had already been given a name, Vulcan.

Schwabe thought that by observing the Sun he might see a planet or dark spot moving across the face of the Sun. Between 1826 and 1843 he observed the Sun on every clear day trying to detect Vulcan. He did not find the planet but what he did discover was a regular variation of sunspots on the Sun. He believed that around every 10 years the sunspot numbers were at their greatest. This solar cycle is now fully recognized; astronomers today watch the Sun carefully watching at solar maximum events for the giant flares that come from the sunspots and which can cause potentially massive amounts of harm to our modern electronic equipment here on Earth.

He believed that around every 10 years the sunspot numbers were at their greatest. This solar cycle is now fully recognized; astronomers today watch the Sun carefully watching at solar maximum events for the giant flares that come from the sunspots and which can cause potentially massive amounts of harm to our modern electronic equipment here on Earth.

 It is to Schwabe that the credit must go to this, one of the most important discoveries in astronomy.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Ariel and Umbriel Discovered

Ariel and Umbriel

On October 24th 1851 William Lassell observing from Liverpool discovered the moons Ariel and Umbriel which orbit Uranus. The two moons are nearly the same size.

Ariel is the fourth largest of the moons of Uranus. It was named after a mischievous airy spirit in Shakespeare's play, The Tempest. The moon has a diameter of 719 miles.

Umbriel is the third largest moon. It is named after the dusky, melancholy sprite from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The moon has a diameter of 727 miles.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook John Goodricke and Delta Cepheus

Delta Cephei
John Goodricke was an incredibly gifted young astronomer living in York in the late 18th century, together with Edward Pigott they would go on to become the “Fathers of Variable Star Astronomy”. All this and Goodricke was deaf, unable to talk and would die before his 22nd birthday.

He had already explained the light variations of the star Algol in Perseus and discovered that Beta Lyra was a star varying in brightness.

On October 19th 1784 Goodricke started to observe Delta Cephei in the constellation of Cepheus (the King) and on October 23rd the indefatigable Goodricke was convinced that that star was varying in brightness. This star is of immense importance to astronomers today, Cepheid variable stars are  used today as distance markers because they allow astronomers when locating Cepheid variables in galaxies to determine how far away they are. Goodricke could of course never know of the importance of this star.

These discoveries were due to his complete knowledge of the locations of stars in the sky by continuously observing the night sky.

Although Goodricke he did not know it his short life was nearly over, he died on the 20th April 1786 probably from pneumonia caught while observing the night sky. During the 1780s the river Ouse in York regularly froze over for up to 6 week each year giving an indication of how cold it was. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society a most prestigious honour for someone so young. Sadly he died two weeks before that letter arrived so he never knew of that honour.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Astrognome Scrapbook Venera 9

Venera 9

The Venera 9 space craft was the first space craft to send back a picture from the surface of another planet. The Russian mission to Venus was launched on June 8th 1975 and arrived at Venus on October 20th 1975. The mission was in two parts the orbiter and lander. The orbiter mission lasted until December 25th 1975.

The Venera 9 lander touched down on the surface of Venus on October 22nd 1975 at the base of a hill near Beta Regio. The lander measured the surface temperature of Venus at +460 degrees  Centigrade with an atmospheric pressure 90 times that of the Earth. The single black and white picture showed a rocky area with 30-40 cm sharp stones and soil between them. The light on Venus was described by Russian scientists as being as bright as Moscow on a cloudy day in June.

Due to the very harsh conditions on the planet the landed had been designed to last for only 30 minutes but in fact it survived for 53 minutes before the harsh conditions on the surface of Venus destroyed the probe.