August 30 – Edward Mills Purcell

Edward Mills Purcell, born August 30th 1912 (died March 7th 1997) was supervisor of the Harvard team responsible for detecting the elusive 21 cm line of neutral galactic hydrogen.

They achieved this by using a home-made horn antenna, built at a cost of just $500, and installed outside the Lyman Lab at Harvard.

Discovery of the 21cm line was important because it allowed radio astronomers to peer through the Earth’s atmosphere with minimal interference and calculate the rotation curve of the galactic spiral arms.

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Asteroid 217 Eudora is yet another large main belt asteroid, discovered by Jérôme Eugène Coggia at Marseilles on August 30th 1880. Very little of interest (except to the most hardened asteroid nuts) is known about it, except that it is probably carbonaceous, and rotates every 25 hours or so.

Eudora was a Hyad. The Hyades were daughters of Atlas (and either Pleioneor Aethra, depending on your source). They were sisters of the Pleiades and the Hesperides, and specialised in the bringing of rain (because the beginning of the rainy season was thought to coincide with the arrival in the sky of the cluster of stars into which they were transformed).  The name Hyades is an odd one.  You might think it comes from “hyein” (to rain), but it actually derives from “hys” (swine). Eudora, by the way, means “good gift”.

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The Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (Astronomische Nederlandse Satelliet) is probably the only Dutch satellite I’m aware of.  It was launched on August 30th 1974 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on a 20 month joint Dutch/NASA mission to measure UV and X-ray sources.

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1984  –  First flight (mission STS-41-D) of the space shuttle Discovery.

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