Timeline of Solar System astronomy

Last updated

The following is a timeline of Solar System astronomy and science. It includes the advances in the knowledge of the Earth at planetary scale, as part of it.


A transit of Venus Venustransit 2004-06-08 07-49.jpg
A transit of Venus

Direct observation

Humans (Homo sapiens) have inhabited the Earth in the last 300,000 years at least, [1] and they had witnessed directly observable astronomical and geological phenomena. For millennia, these have arose admiration and curiosity, being admitted as of superhuman nature and scale. Multiple imaginative interpretations were being fixed in oral traditions of difficult dating, and incorporated into a variety of belief systems, as animism, shamanism, mythology, religion and/or philosophy.

Although such phenomena are not "discoveries" per se, as they are part of the common human experience, their observation shape the knowledge and comprehension of the world around us, and about its position in the observable universe, in which the Sun plays a role of outmost importance for us. What today is known to be the Solar System was regarded for generations as the contents of the "whole universe".

The most relevant phenomena of these kind are:

Along with an indeterminate number of unregistered sightings of rare events: meteor impacts; novae and supernovae.


Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa.jpg
Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa

NAMA Machine d'Anticythere 1.jpg
The Antikythera mechanism (Fragment A – front); visible is the largest gear in the mechanism, approximately 140 millimetres (5.5 in) in diameter
NAMA Machine d'Anticythere 4.jpg
The Antikythera mechanism (Fragment A – back)

Middle Ages

Alfonsine Tables Tablas alfonsies.jpg
Alfonsine Tables

16th century

17th century

18th century

Halley's map of the path of the Solar eclipse of 3 May 1715 across England Solar eclipse 1715May03 Halley map.png
Halley's map of the path of the Solar eclipse of 3 May 1715 across England

19th century

The earliest surviving dagerrotype of the Moon by Draper (1840) John W Draper-The first Moon Photograph 1840.jpg
The earliest surviving dagerrotype of the Moon by Draper (1840)
Percival Lowell in 1914, observing Venus in the daytime with the 24-inch (61 cm) Alvan Clark & Sons refracting telescope at Flagstaff, Arizona Percival Lowell observing Venus from the Lowell Observatory in 1914.jpg
Percival Lowell in 1914, observing Venus in the daytime with the 24-inch (61 cm) Alvan Clark & Sons refracting telescope at Flagstaff, Arizona


Palomar Mountain Observatory featured on 1948 United States stamp Palomar Mountain Observatory 3c 1948 issue U.S. stamp.jpg
Palomar Mountain Observatory featured on 1948 United States stamp
The first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists on 24 October 1946. First photo from space.jpg
The first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists on 24 October 1946.


Earth taken from Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. Image as originally shown to the public displays extensive flaws and striping. First View of Earth from Moon.jpg
Earth taken from Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. Image as originally shown to the public displays extensive flaws and striping.
Artist's impression of Pioneer 10's flyby of Jupiter Pioneer 10 at Jupiter.jpg
Artist's impression of Pioneer 10's flyby of Jupiter


Artist's impression of Giotto spacecraft approaching Halley's Comet Giotto spacecraft.jpg
Artist's impression of Giotto spacecraft approaching Halley's Comet
A map of Venus produced from Magellan data Venus map with labels.jpg
A map of Venus produced from Magellan data


Annular eclipse of the Sun by Phobos as viewed by the Mars Curiosity rover (20 August 2013). PIA17356-MarsCuriosityRover-EclipseOfSunByPhobos.jpg
Annular eclipse of the Sun by Phobos as viewed by the Mars Curiosity rover (20 August 2013).

See also

The number of currently known, or observed, objects of the Solar System are in the hundreds of thousands. Many of them are listed in the following articles:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asteroid</span> Minor planets found within the inner Solar System

An asteroid is a minor planet—an object that is neither a true planet nor a comet—that orbits within the inner Solar System. They are rocky, metallic, or icy bodies with no atmosphere. The size and shape of asteroids vary significantly, ranging from small rubble piles under a kilometer across to Ceres, a dwarf planet almost 1000 km in diameter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eclipse</span> Astronomical event where one body is hidden by another

An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object or spacecraft is temporarily obscured, by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer. This alignment of three celestial objects is known as a syzygy. An eclipse is the result of either an occultation or a transit. A "deep eclipse" is when a small astronomical object is behind a bigger one.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Planet</span> Large, round non-stellar astronomical object

A planet is a large, rounded astronomical body that is neither a star nor its remnant. The best available theory of planet formation is the nebular hypothesis, which posits that an interstellar cloud collapses out of a nebula to create a young protostar orbited by a protoplanetary disk. Planets grow in this disk by the gradual accumulation of material driven by gravity, a process called accretion. The Solar System has at least eight planets: the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Solar System</span> The Sun and objects orbiting it

The Solar System is the gravitationally bound system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it. The largest of these objects are the eight planets, which in order from the Sun are four terrestrial planets ; two gas giants ; and two ice giants. The Solar System developed 4.6 billion years ago when a dense region of a molecular cloud collapsed, forming the Sun and a protoplanetary disc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Space exploration</span> Exploration of space, planets, and moons

Space exploration is the use of astronomy and space technology to explore outer space. While the exploration of space is currently carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, its physical exploration is conducted both by uncrewed robotic space probes and human spaceflight. Space exploration, like its classical form astronomy, is one of the main sources for space science.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conjunction (astronomy)</span> When two astronomical objects have the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects or spacecraft appear to be close to each other in the sky. This means they have either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Occultation</span> Occlusion of an object by another object that passes between it and the observer

An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden from the observer by another object that passes between them. The term is often used in astronomy, but can also refer to any situation in which an object in the foreground blocks from view (occults) an object in the background. In this general sense, occultation applies to the visual scene observed from low-flying aircraft when foreground objects obscure distant objects dynamically, as the scene changes over time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discovery Program</span> Ongoing solar system exploration program by NASA

The Discovery Program is a series of Solar System exploration missions funded by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through its Planetary Missions Program Office. The cost of each mission is capped at a lower level than missions from NASA's New Frontiers or Flagship Programs. As a result, Discovery missions tend to be more focused on a specific scientific goal rather than serving a general purpose.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Formation and evolution of the Solar System</span> Modelling its structure and composition

There is evidence that the formation of the Solar System began about 4.6 billion years ago with the gravitational collapse of a small part of a giant molecular cloud. Most of the collapsing mass collected in the center, forming the Sun, while the rest flattened into a protoplanetary disk out of which the planets, moons, asteroids, and other small Solar System bodies formed.

A planet symbol or planetary symbol is a graphical symbol used in astrology and astronomy to represent a classical planet or one of the modern planets. The symbols were also used in alchemy to represent the metals associated with the planets, and in calendars for their associated days. The use of these symbols derives from classical Greco-Roman astronomy, although their current altered shapes were developed in the 16th century.

Extraterrestrial liquid water is water in its liquid state that naturally occurs outside Earth. It is a subject of wide interest because it is recognized as one of the key prerequisites for life as we know it and thus surmised as essential for extraterrestrial life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discovery and exploration of the Solar System</span>

Discovery and exploration of the Solar System is observation, visitation, and increase in knowledge and understanding of Earth's "cosmic neighborhood". This includes the Sun, Earth and the Moon, the major planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, their satellites, as well as smaller bodies including comets, asteroids, and dust.

<i>Planetary Science Decadal Survey</i> Publication of the United States National Research Council

The Planetary Science Decadal Survey is a serial publication of the United States National Research Council produced for NASA and other United States Government Agencies such as the National Science Foundation. The documents identify key questions facing planetary science and outlines recommendations for space and ground-based exploration ten years into the future. Missions to gather data to answer these big questions are described and prioritized, where appropriate. Similar decadal surveys cover astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, and heliophysics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Planetary surface</span> Where the material of a planetary masss outer crust contacts its atmosphere or outer space

A planetary surface is where the solid or liquid material of certain types of astronomical objects contacts the atmosphere or outer space. Planetary surfaces are found on solid objects of planetary mass, including terrestrial planets, dwarf planets, natural satellites, planetesimals and many other small Solar System bodies (SSSBs). The study of planetary surfaces is a field of planetary geology known as surface geology, but also a focus on a number of fields including planetary cartography, topography, geomorphology, atmospheric sciences, and astronomy. Land is the term given to non-liquid planetary surfaces. The term landing is used to describe the collision of an object with a planetary surface and is usually at a velocity in which the object can remain intact and remain attached.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Planetary science</span> Science of planets and planetary systems

Planetary science is the scientific study of planets, celestial bodies and planetary systems and the processes of their formation. It studies objects ranging in size from micrometeoroids to gas giants, aiming to determine their composition, dynamics, formation, interrelations and history. It is a strongly interdisciplinary field, which originally grew from astronomy and Earth science, and now incorporates many disciplines, including planetary geology, cosmochemistry, atmospheric science, physics, oceanography, hydrology, theoretical planetary science, glaciology, and exoplanetology. Allied disciplines include space physics, when concerned with the effects of the Sun on the bodies of the Solar System, and astrobiology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of the Solar System</span> Overview of and topical guide to the Solar System

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Solar System:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grand tack hypothesis</span> Theory of early changes in Jupiters orbit

In planetary astronomy, the grand tack hypothesis proposes that Jupiter formed at a distance of 3.5 AU from the Sun, then migrated inward to 1.5 AU, before reversing course due to capturing Saturn in an orbital resonance, eventually halting near its current orbit at 5.2 AU. The reversal of Jupiter's planetary migration is likened to the path of a sailboat changing directions (tacking) as it travels against the wind.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Satellite system (astronomy)</span> Set of gravitationally bound objects in orbit

A satellite system is a set of gravitationally bound objects in orbit around a planetary mass object or minor planet, or its barycenter. Generally speaking, it is a set of natural satellites (moons), although such systems may also consist of bodies such as circumplanetary disks, ring systems, moonlets, minor-planet moons and artificial satellites any of which may themselves have satellite systems of their own. Some bodies also possess quasi-satellites that have orbits gravitationally influenced by their primary, but are generally not considered to be part of a satellite system. Satellite systems can have complex interactions including magnetic, tidal, atmospheric and orbital interactions such as orbital resonances and libration. Individually major satellite objects are designated in Roman numerals. Satellite systems are referred to either by the possessive adjectives of their primary, or less commonly by the name of their primary. Where only one satellite is known, or it is a binary with a common centre of gravity, it may be referred to using the hyphenated names of the primary and major satellite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Historical models of the Solar System</span>

Historical models of the Solar System began during prehistoric periods and are updated to this day. The models of the Solar System throughout history were first represented in the early form of cave markings and drawings, calendars and astronomical symbols. Then books and written records became the main source of information that expressed the way the people of the time thought of the Solar System.


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