NASA posted an update in the last week of December that the international space station would be visible from the New York City area—and therefore the Oxford New York office—on the night of 28 December 2013. While there were certainly a vast number of NASA super fans outside that particularly clear night (this writer included), it’s difficult for recent generations to recall a time when space observations and achievements like this contributed significantly to the cultural zeitgeist. When Sputnik orbited the earth in 1957, entire families rushed onto their lawns for a chance to see the tiny speck of light sail across the sky. The slideshow below, based on an Oxford Reference timeline, reflects a number of key, transformative moments in the study of astronomy, illustrating how far this last century has taken us.
(1) Crab Nebula, Joseph DePasquale, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, NASA.
(2) Nicolaus Copernicus – The Heliocentric Solar System (illustration). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
(3) Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Domenico Cresti da Passignano. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
(4) Percival Lowell observing Venus. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
(5) Arthur Stanley Eddington via Library of Congress.
(6) The Hubble Space Telescope via NASA.
(7) Illustration of the seal of NASA, via NASA.
(8) Yuri Gagarin, Convair/General Dynamics Plant and Personnel. Public domain via San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.
(9) President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral in November 1963. Public domain via NASA.
(10) View from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Public domain via NASA.
(11) Apollo 15 Lunar Module pilot James B. Irwin loads up the “Rover.” Public domain via NASA.
(12) International Space Station. Public domain via NASA.