Looking back…

In case you were wondering about notable science events that occured the week following August 15…

Hat Creek Radio Observatory
Creative Commons License photo credit: kathycsus

Is there intelligent life out there? On August 15 of 1977, The Big Ear, a radio telescope that acts as part of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) picked up a signal from deep space. The characteristics of the signal marked it as non-terrestrial and from a point of origin outside the solar system. The signal lasted for 72 seconds (the telescope turns – so it was only pointed in the direction of the signal for 72 seconds) and has never been detected again. The source of the signal, referred to as the Wow! signal, is still unknown. Current theories are that the signal originated from Earth and bounced back off of a piece of space debris, or that the signal came from a natural phenomenon known as atmospheric twinkling.

On August 17, 1970, Venera 7, a Soviet space probe, was launched towards Venus. The probe landed on the surface of Venus in December of the same year, making it the first time a man-made object transmitted data back to Earth from the surface of another planet.

Also on August 17, but in 1982, the first Compact Discs (commonly refered to as CDs) were released to the public. CDs are still the standard medium playback for audio recordings today.

On August 18, 1868, the French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen discovered Helium. While observing a solar eclipse in India, Janssen noticed a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nm in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the sun (each element has a different wavelength.) Since his discovery, people have been able to succesfully sing the munchkin songs from the Wizard of Oz  at parties (there were so many different videos to choose from).
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