January 8 – Launch of Luna 21 (1973)

January 8th, 1973 saw the launch of Luna 21 from Baikonur, onboard a Proton 8K82K rocket, to land the Lunokhod 2 rover on the Moon a week later, on January 15th.  The mission was successful, with a landing in the Le Monnier crater, between the Mare Serenitatis and the Taurus mountains.

Lunokhod Rover
Lunokhod Rover.  What do you think: Heath Robinson or Wallace and Grommit?

Lunokhod 2 took some 80,000 photographs, and conducted several soil surveys.  It kept going until May 1973, when dust on its solar panels and radiators caused a terminal heating issue. TAS announced the end of the mission on June 3rd.


 

January 08 – Asteroid 379 Huenna

Asteroid 379 Huenna was discovered on the 8th of January 1894 by August Charlois, and is a carbonaceous C-type asteroid, a member of the Themis or Themistian family in the outer reaches of the asteroid belt. In August 2003 it was discovered that Huenna has a small (7 km wide) satellite. It remains unnamed at present, except for its official designation S 2003 (379) 1.

Huenna was named after the island of Ven (or Hven in older Danish), the site of two observatories, Uraniborg and Stjerneborg, built by Tycho Brahe, and now a popular tourist destination. Uraniborg was built around 1580 and named after Urania, the muse of astronomy. It was, apparently, the last observatory to be built without a telescope as its main observing instrument. Stjerneborg was built partly underground (I’m sure there was a good reason) and means “star castle”.

The brass mural quadrant at Uraniborg.
The brass mural quadrant at Uraniborg.

The picture above shows the large brass mural “quadrant” attached to the observatory wall at Uraniborg, a three-man instrument used to measure the positions of celestial objects. And if you were looking for Quadrantid meteors last week you will probably remember that their radiant is in the vicinity of the now defunct constellation of Quadrans Muralis.
380 Fiducia, another C-type asteroid, was also discovered by Charlois on January 8th 1894. It was named after the Latin word for “confidence”.


1642 – Death of Galileo.


1942 – Birth of Stephen Hawking.


2002 – Discovery of exoplanet Iota Draconis b.