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April 12th in Astronomy and Space Science
Death1817French astronomer Charles Messier dies. A dedicated comet hunter, Messier discovered 20 comets, 14 of which were new objects that still carry his name. In the course of his comet hunting he compiled a list of 103 objects which might be mistaken for comets. This list, called the Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters is now what Messier is most remembered for, being a list of almost all of the interesting non-stellar objects visible in small telescopes from the northern latitudes. Some of Messier's hand written notes were later incorporated as objects M104 through M110.
Manned Spaceflight1961Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to orbit the Earth. His Vostok 1 spacecraft makes a single orbit and is successfully recovered. Total flight time was 1 hour 48 minutes.
Manned Spaceflight1981The first operational space shuttle, Columbia, is launched. The crew consists of commander Joseph Engle and pilot Richard Truly.
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