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Halley's Comet passed perihelion in its twelfth known passage, as calculated from records by Chinese astronomers.

In 2000 years of observations since 240 BCE, Chinese records have never missed a return of Halley's Comet. From those records, Cowell and Crommelin computed the dates of perihelion passage as:

 1. 15 May 240 BCE
 2. 20 May 163 BCE
 3. 15 August 87 BCE
 4. 8 October 12 BCE
 5. 26 January 66 CE
 6. 25 March 141 CE
 7. 6 April 218 CE
 8. 7 April 295 CE
 9. 13 February 374 CE
10. 3 July 451 CE
11. 15 November 530 CE
12. 26 March 607 CE
13. 26 November 684 CE
14. 10 June 760 CE
15. 25 February 837 CE
16. 17 July 912 CE
17. 2 September 989 CE
18. 25 March 1066 CE
19. 19 April 1145 CE
20. 10 September 1222 CE
21. 22.7 October 1301 CE
22. 8.8 November 1378 CE
23. 8.2 January 1456 CE
24. 25.8 August 1531 CE
25. 26.9 October 1607 CE
26. 14.8 September 1682 CE
27. 12.6 March 1758 CE
28. 15.9 November 1835 CE
29. 19.7 April 1910 CE
30. 9 February 1986 CE

Note that the precision of the dates from passage 21 onward could be computed with increased accuracy because of additional observations. However, at the time of their computation, the 1986 passage was still a future event. (The actual date was found from other sources.)

On 19 April 607, Comet 1P/607 H1 (Halley) approached within 0.0898 AU (13.5 million km, 8.4 million miles) of Earth. On 374-April-1.9, it had approached closer, having come within 0.0884 AU (13.2 million km, 8.2 million miles), and on 837-April-10.5, it became the third closest approach in history prior to 1900, passing within 0.0334 AU (5 million km, 3.1 million miles).

On 16 October 1982, astronomers David Jewitt and G. Edward Danielson using a CCD camera with the 5.1 m Hale telescope at Mt. Palomar Observatory were the first to detect Halley's Comet on its thirtieth recorded return.

See also The past orbit of Halley's Comet (SAO/NASA ADS)

See also Comet Close Approaches prior to 1900 (CNEOS)

See also History of Halley's Comet (Wikipedia)

See also Halley's Comet (CQ Press)

See also Comet 1P/Halley (Halley's Comet) (Smithsonian NASM)
ref: adsabs.harvard.edu

Born, Benjamin Thompson, American-born British physicist and inventor (thermodynamics)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Born, Nathaniel Bowditch, American mathematician, astronomer, navigation expert, author, inventor (marine sextant)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

William and Frederick Langenheim photographed the first total eclipse of the sun visible in North America since the invention of photography.
ref: www.metmuseum.org

The first reported sighting of Vulcan, a planet thought to orbit inside Mercury, was made.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

M. Wolf discovered asteroid #561 Ingwelde.

Born, Leonard Nimoy (at Boston, Massachusetts, USA), actor (Spock, Star Trek)
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Y. Vaisala discovered asteroid #1548 Palomaa.

1958 17:31:00 GMT
Explorer 3, the third US IGY (International Geophysical Year) satellite, and America's third successful satellite, was launched into Earth orbit.
Explorer 3 nose cone, case and payload, NASA photo Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog explorer_3.jpg
Explorer 3 nose cone, case and payload, NASA photo
Source: NSSDCA Master Catalog

Explorer 3 (1958 Gamma 1) was launched 26 March 1958 in conjunction with the International Geophysical Year (IGY) by the US Army (Ordinance) into an eccentric orbit. Its objective was a continuation of experiments started with Explorer 1. The payload consisted of a cosmic ray counter (a Geiger-Mueller tube), and a micrometeorite detector (erotion gauge). Explorer 3 was spin stabilized, and had an on-board tape recorder to provide a complete radiation history for each orbit. It was discovered soon after launch that the satellite was in a tumbling motion with a period of about 7 seconds. Explorer 3 decayed from orbit on 27 June 1958, after 93 days of operation.
ref: en.wikipedia.org
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

Born, Yuri Pavlovich Gidzenko (at Yelanets, Nikolayev Oblast, Ukrainian SSR), Lt Colonel Russian AF, Russian cosmonaut (Mir 20, ISS 1, Soyuz TM-34/Soyuz TM-33 (ISS taxi); nearly 329d 22.75h total time in spaceflight)
Cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko, NASA photo (27 April 2002) Source: Wikipedia 583px-Yuri_Gidzenko.jpg
Cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko, NASA photo (27 April 2002)
Source: Wikipedia
ref: www.spacefacts.de

1969 12:29:00 GMT
The Soviet weather satellite Meteor 1-1 was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

NASA launched Fltsatcom-6 which failed to reach orbit due to being struck by lightning and breaking up from structural stress when the guidance computer failed, showering the launch pad with flaming debris.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

Thirty-nine bodies were found in the Heaven's Gate cult suicides. The cult members believed a spaceship was hiding behind the comet Hale-Bopp, and their departure from Earthly existence would get them a trip to its home world.
ref: en.wikipedia.org

JAXA's Akatsuki Venus probe fired its RCS thrusters to lower its apoapsis to about 330,000 km (210,000 mi) and shorten its orbital period from 13 to 9 days.

On 20 May 2010, JAXA launched its Akatsuki probe from the Tanegashima YLP-1 launch site at 21:58:22 UTC (21 May 2010 6:58:22 a.m. JST) toward Venus aboard an H-IIA 202 rocket, with infrared camera observations of cloud and surface imaging planned from orbit there. (A small solar power sail demonstration mission, Ikaros, was also carried aloft on the same launch.) Other experiments were included to confirm the presence of lightning, and to determine whether volcanism occurs currently on Venus. The primary objective was studying the complex Venusian meteorology caused by atmospheric super-rotation: On most planets, the atmosphere circulates much slower than the planet's rotation speed (Earth's fastest winds are only 10-20% of its rotation speed). However, Venus rotates at 6 km/h at the equator (its rotational period of 243 days is the slowest of the solar system's planets), but the atmosphere spins around the planet at 300 km/h at the cloud tops, winds move at up to 60 times the speed of its rotation.

Akatsuki was originally intended to conduct scientific research for two or more years from an elliptical orbit around Venus at an altitude ranging from 300 to 80,000 km (190 to 49,710 mi). However, instead of firing for 12 minutes during the orbit insertion burn starting at 8:49 a.m. 7 December 2010 JST (6 December 23:49 UTC, 6 December 6:49 p.m. EST), the probe's engines only fired for 152 seconds (2.5 minutes), the failure occurring when Akatsuki was behind Venus for 22 minutes from Earth's perspective. Analysis of the data indicated the likely cause of the malfunction was salt deposits jamming the valve between the helium pressurization tank and the fuel tank. As a result, the engine mixture became oxidizer-rich, resulting in high combustion temperatures that damaged the chamber's throat and nozzle. Since the burn was far short of what was needed to go into Venus orbit, Akatsuki ended up in a heliocentric one with an orbital period of 203 days. Where Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days, the probe returned to the vicinity of Venus in December 2015. During the intervening time, tests of the orbit maneuver engine (OME) showed it had insufficient specific impulse available for orbital maneuvers (thrust was only about 10% of what was expected), and a plan to use the four hydrazine attitude control thrusters of the reaction control system (RCS) to enter orbit was developed. Because the RCS thrusters don't use oxidizer, the remaining 65 kg of MON oxidizer was dumped overboard to lighten the spacecraft in October 2011. On 7 December 2015, the RCS thrusters were used to impart a total delta-v of 243.8 m/s to the spacecraft in a 20 minute burn, successfully placing the probe in a highly elliptical prograde orbit ranging from 440,000 km (270,000 mi) to 400 km (250 mi) above Venus' surface, with an orbital period of 13 days and 14 hours. A follow-up burn on 26 March 2016 lowered Akatsuki's apoapsis to about 330,000 km (210,000 mi) and shortened its orbital period from 13 to 9 days.

Akatsuki finally started its two year science mission in mid-May 2016. On 9 December 2016, two infrared cameras failed, terminating 1- and 2-micron observations.

Soon after insertion in December 2015 and in "a few glimmers in April and May" of 2016, Akatsuki's instruments recorded a "bow-shape feature in the atmosphere stretching 6,000 miles, almost pole to pole — a sideways smile" in the planet's winds above Aphrodite Terra, "a highland region about the size of Africa that rises up to three miles from the surface." Project scientists termed the feature a "gravity wave" but it is more likely simply a transient atmospheric phenomenon.

See also Wikipedia: Akatsuki (spacecraft)
ref: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov

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