The most interesting
developments of 1960 concerned Venus and Jupiter.
There were also two lunar eclipses and two
partial solar eclipses in 1960, and one new
observatory was dedicated.
Using radio-frequency radiation, astronomers
Hopkins University determined that the
surface temperature of Venus
must be close to 600º F. They also discovered
water vapor above the cloud layer, suggesting
that the Venusian clouds may be water-vapor
Observations at the California Institute of
Technology Radio Observatory established the
existence of a radiation belt around Jupiter,
the diameter of which is about three times that
of the planet. The energy contained within the
radiation belt indicates that Jupiter has an
appreciable magnetic field.
From April to July 1960, radioastronomer Frank
D. Drake turned an 85-foot National Radio
Astronomy Observatory telescope toward two dwarf
stars, Epsilon Eridani (in the Constellation
Eridanus) and Tau Ceti (in the Constellation
Cetus), with the goal of detecting a radio signal
indicative of intelligent life. Unfortunately,
the only meaningful signal Drake and his
associates were able to pick up came from a
secret military experiment on earth.
Left: The radio telescope used for Project
Satellites and Probes
V, launched by NASA on March 11, was placed
in an orbit between Earth and Venus. It
approached Venus to within about 7 million miles,
although Venus was in the opposite part of its
orbit at the time. Between its placement in orbit
and loss of contact on April 30, the probe
discovered that strong solar flare activity
produces severe deviations in Earth's magnetic
Right: Pioneer V mounted to its Thor Able
of the Doppler shift in the frequency of the
signal emitted by a satellite orbiting the Earth
underlie a method useful in navigation of
position determination on the Earth's surface.
This scheme was developed for the Transit
satellites, launched on April 13 and June 22.
From a point on the Earth's surface whose
position is to be determined (like a ship), the
observer measures the Doppler shift of radio
signals from the navigational satellite. This
type of navigation system has the advantage of
being usable in cloudy weather.
Left: Artist rendering of the first
There were two lunar
eclipses in 1960. The first, on March 13, was
visible in part of the Americas and most of the
Pacific area. The second, on September 5, was
visible in Australia and eastern Asia.
Right: A time-lapse photo showing the last
four stages of the March 13 eclipse, as seen over
A partial solar eclipse on March 27 was
visible in Australia near sunset and in
Antarctica. Another partial solar eclipse took
place on September 20. This one was visible in
the Mississippi Valley near sunset and in eastern
Instruments and Observatories
During 1960 a grant was made by the Ford
Foundation to help build an astrometric telescope
in South America that would be operated by Yale
and Columbia universities.
120-inch reflector of the Lick Observatory near
San Jose, California, was completed in 1960 and
it began producing photographs of nebulae, star
clusters, and galaxies almost immediately. The
excellent quality of the mirror was made possible
by the fact that it was ground, polished, and
figured in the observatory itself so that it
could be tested at the telescope under actual
Left: A spiral galaxy in the Constellation
Ursa Major was one of the first stellar objects
photographed by the new reflector at the Lick
On March 15, 1960, the Kitt Peak National
Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, was dedicated.
A 36-inch reflector and some smaller instruments
were in operation at the time and an 80-inch
reflector was under construction.
Britannica Book of the Year
Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1961
Encyclopedia Astronautica http://www.astronautix.com/craft/transit.htm
Kitt Peak National Observatory https://www.noao.edu/kpno/
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