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Sunday, March 2, 2014

This Day in Science History - March 2 - Heinrich Olbers

March 2nd marks the passing of Heinrich Olbers. Olbers was a German physician and amateur astronomer who devised a simple method to calculate the orbits of comets and discovered two large asteroids, Vesta and Pallas. He also believed the asteroids were remnants of a wrecked planet that orbited the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.

Olbers is also known for the question "Why is the night sky dark?". If you assume that the universe is infinite and filled with stars, you should see light from stars in all directions and the night sky should be as bright as daylight. As we all know, the night sky dark with many points of light.

This question is known as Olbers' Paradox and had no simple answer. The Big Bang Theory tries to answer the question by stating there is a finite number of stars and the universe is constantly expanding.

1972 - NASA launches the Pioneer 10 space probe.

Pioneer spacecraftNASA
Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to pass through the asteroid belt and take direct observations of the planet Jupiter. It also became the first to leave our solar system.

1949 - American pilots complete first non-stop around the world flight.

The Lucky Lady II, an American B-50 Superfortress completed the first non-stop around the world flight. It took off from an Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas and landed again after just over 94 hours and 23,452 miles.

1939 - Howard Carter died.

Howard Carter (1874 - 1939)Library of Congress
Carter was the English archeologist who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of Kings.

1913 - Georgii Nikolaevich Flerov was born.

Flerov was the Russian physicist who recognized the spontaneous fission of uranium. He set up several research centers into nuclear science and was a direct influence on nearly every Russian nuclear scientist. One laboratory he set up was the Dubna laboratory which synthesized many transactinde elements.

1887 - August Wilhelm Eichler died.

Eichler was a German botanist who created one of the first plant classification systems. He divided plants into four phyla: thallophyta, bryophya, pteridophyta and spermatophyta.

1840 - Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers died.

Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers (1758 - 1840)Henry Smith Williams/The Story of Nineteenth-century Science, 1901
Olbers was a German physician and astronomer who discovered the large asteroids Pallas and Vesta. He also proposed the asteroids were the remnants of a destroyed plantet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

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