A Brief History of High-Energy Astronomy: 1980 - 1984
In Reverse Chronological Order
|Jul 18, 1984
||Svetlana Savitskaya (Salyut-7, USSR) becomes the first woman to walk in
|Apr 20, 1984
||First Detection of X-Ray emission during the outburst of a classical
nova, by the EXOSAT Low Energy (LE) telescopes. Nova Muscae 1983 was
discovered by Liller on 1983 Jan 18, and although initially it looked like
a typical fast nova, but after fading by 4 magnitudes in a month, it stayed
at 11-11.5th magnitude for the next year rather than continuing to fade.
It was observed by EXOSAT 15 months after its maximum, and detected as a
weak but significant X-ray source. Since the LE had no spectral
capabilities, the origin of the X-ray emission could not be unambiguously
determined. See Ogelman et al. (ApJ, 287, L31, 1984) for more details
about this discovery.
||In-orbit servicing of the
Solar Maximum Mission (SMM) satellite by the crew of the Space
Shuttle Challenger enabled SMM to resume pointed observations after
a several years hiatus.
|Aug 1, 1983
||First observation of an ionospheric disturbance due to a gamma-ray
burst (GRB) , detected by its effect on very low frequency (VLF) radio
signals. The GRB (GRB 830801) occurred at 22:14:20 UT, and was observed by
several satellites; it was one of the strongest GRBs recorded up to this
date, with a total energy fluence of 2 x 10-3 erg
cm-2, and a duration at lower energies in excess of 40 seconds.
The temporal coincidence of the GRB and the ionospheric disturbance,
combined with the fact that solar X-ray flares of this intensity level
were known to produce such effects on the ionosphere, were the major
pieces of evidence in support of this attribution. See Fishman and Inan
(Nature, 331, 418, 1988) for more details.
|May 26, 1983
||Launch of the European
X-ray Observatory Satellite (EXOSAT).
|Mar 23, 1983
Astron, a joint Soviet-French observatory which carried
both UV and X-ray instruments.
||The Soviet Venera
13 & Venera 14 spacecraft cease operations.
|Feb 20, 1983
||Launch of the second Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite
Tenma, known as
Astro B prior to launch.
|Nov 12, 1982
||Publication date of the discovery of the first millisecond pulsar,
PSR B1937+21, by Backer et al. (IAU Circ 3743, 1982; see also Nature, 300, 615,
1982), using the Arecibo Radio telescope at 1400 MHz. This 1.56 millisecond
pulsar is now recognized as the prototype of the class of `born-again' or
'recycled' pulsars, i.e., the rapid rotation is not due to extreme youth but
is instead due to the spin-up of an old neutron
star in a binary system caused by the accretion of matter and angular momentum
from the expanding envelope of its companion star. As of 2002, about 80
more millisecond pulsars have been discovered with pulse periods less than 10
milliseconds, but PSR B1937+21 is still the fastest known (check out the
Catalog for a listing of all known pulsars).
|Apr 6, 1982
||The European Space Agency COS-B
gamma-ray observatory ceases operations. COS-B provided the first complete map
of the Galaxy in gamma-rays.
|Mar 4, 1982
arrives at Venus; a landing unit descends to the surface while the mother
craft continues into interplanetary space after its flyby.
|Mar 1, 1982
arrives at Venus; landing unit descends to the surface while the mother
craft continues into interplanetary space after its flyby.
||The Third International
Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) completes its mission. Adequate
onboard fuel allows a new extended mission: the satellite is
renamed as the International Cometary Explorer (ICE) and begins
a series of
gravitational maneuvers with the Earth and Moon to boost it into
an orbit to encounter P/Giacobini-Zinner and P/Halley.
|Nov 12, 1981
||The second space shuttle launch, STS-2:
this second flight of
Columbia was truncated (only 2 days in duration) due to the failure of a
fuel cell. It carried a payload, OSTA-1 (Office of Space and Terrestrial
Applications-1), which conducted earth observation experiments.
|Apr - Nov 1981
||Publication of 3 landmark papers which use data obtained by the
Einstein Observatory (HEAO 2) to show
that X-ray emission is a common property of most types of `normal' stars,
with only a few exceptions such as red giants, and discuss which stellar
properties are correlated with this X-ray emission: see Vaiana
et al. (1981, ApJ, 245, 163), Pallavicini et al. (1981, ApJ, 248, 279) and
Ayres et al. (1981, ApJ, 250, 293) for more details.
|Nov 4, 1981
Both Venera 13 and 14 carry gamma-ray burst detectors and can triangulate
source positions through interferometry with the
Pioneer Venus Orbiter
|Oct 30, 1981
||Launch of the Soviet Venera 13
|Aug 26, 1981
Voyager 2 makes its closest approach (101,000 km) to Saturn
before continuing on its `Grand Tour' to Uranus and Neptune.
|May 29, 1981
||NASA's Third High Energy
Astrophysics Observatory (HEAO-3) ceases operation.
HEAO-3 carried three high-energy-astrophysics instruments, one instrument
surveying the sky in hard X-rays and gamma rays, and two measuring the
composition of cosmic rays.
||Apr 25, 1981
||The Einstein Observatory
(HEAO-2) ceases operation.
|Apr 12, 1981
||The first space shuttle launch,
Columbia performed a
two day test mission before returning to land at Edwards Air Force Base in
|Feb 15, 1981
||Copernicus (the Third
Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, OAO-3)
ceases operation. Copernicus was primarily an ultraviolet spectroscopy
mission but it also carried 4 co-aligned X-ray detectors.
||The Solar Maximum
Mission suffers an onboard failure of its attitude control system,
bringing science projects involving the pointed instruments to a halt.
|Nov 12, 1980
Voyager 1 makes its closest approach (124,000 km) to Saturn.
|Mar 14, 1980
||THe British-US Ariel-V
spacecraft re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. Ariel-V carried several
instruments which monitored the X-ray sky for more than 5 years
and catalogued 250 X-ray sources. It detected and studied the bright "X-ray
nova" A0620-00 and established that Seyfert 1 galaxies are a class of bright
|Feb 14, 1980
||Launch of the
Solar Maximum Mission (SMM). Although primarily a solar
mission, SMM's suite of scientific instruments included a Hard X-Ray Burst
Spectrometer (HXRBS) and a Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS), both of which could
and did observe cosmic high-energy sources.
We would like to thank the following individuals for their
contributions to this page:
Jesse S. Allen, and
Ian M. George
JPL's Space Calendar and the
Working Group for the History of Astronomy's
Astronomiae Historia (History of Astronomy) information pages.
Web page author: Stephen A. Drake (based on an original by Jesse S. Allen)
Web page maintainer: Stephen A. Drake
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