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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 at Johns 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 clouds.
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.
Satellites and Probes
Pioneer 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 field.
Measurements 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.
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 Siberia.
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.
The 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 operating conditions.
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.
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