Timeline of Solar System astronomy

The following is a timeline of Solar System astronomy.

A transit of Venus


The Antikythera mechanism (Fragment A – front); visible is the largest gear in the mechanism, approximately 140 millimetres (5.5 in) in diameter
The Antikythera mechanism (Fragment A – back)
  • 2nd millennium BC – earliest possible date for the composition of the Babylonian Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, a 7th-century BC copy of a list of observations of the motions of the planet Venus, and the oldest planetary table currently known.
  • 2nd millennium BC – Babylonian astronomers identify the inner planets Mercury and Venus and the outer planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, which would remain the only known planets until the invention of the telescope in early modern times.[1]
  • late 2nd millennium BC – Chinese astronomers record a solar eclipse
  • late 2nd millennium BC – Chinese determine that Jupiter needs 12 years to complete one revolution of its orbit. [citation needed]
  • c. 1100 BC – Chinese first determine the spring equinox.
  • 776 BC – Chinese make the earliest reliable record of a solar eclipse.
  • 7th century BC – Egyptian astronomers alleged to have predicted a solar eclipse
  • 613 BC, July – A Comet, possibly Comet Halley, is recorded in Spring and Autumn Annals by the Chinese
  • 586 BC – Thales of Miletus alleged to have predicted a solar eclipse
  • c. 450 BC: Anaxagoras shows that the Moon shines by reflected sunlight.
  • 350 BC – Aristotle argues for a spherical Earth using lunar eclipses and other observations
  • 280 BC – Aristarchus of Samos offers the first definite discussion of the possibility of a heliocentric cosmos, and uses the size of the Earth's shadow on the Moon to estimate the Moon's orbital radius at 60 Earth radii, and its physical radius as one-third that of the Earth. He also makes an inaccurate attempt to measure the distance to the Sun
  • 200 BC – Eratosthenes determines that the radius of the Earth is roughly 6,400 km
  • 150 BC – Hipparchus uses parallax to determine that the distance to the Moon is roughly 380,000 km
  • 134 BC – Hipparchus discovers the precession of the equinoxes
  • 87 BC – The Antikythera mechanism, the earliest known computer, is built. It is designed to predict the movements of the Planets.
  • 28 BC – Chinese history book Book of Han makes earliest known dated record of sunspot.
  • c. 150 CE – Claudius Ptolemy completes his Almagest that codifies the astronomical knowledge of his time and cements the geocentric model in the West

Middle Ages

17th Century

18th century

19th century

The earliest surviving dagerrotype of the Moon by Draper (1840)


The first photo from space was taken from a V-2 launched by US scientists on 24 October 1946.
  • 1930 – Seth Nicholson measures the surface temperature of the Moon
  • 1935 – The Explorer II balloon reached a record altitude of 22,066 m (72,395 ft), enabling its occupants to photograph the curvature of the Earth for the first time.
  • 1944 – Gerard Kuiper discovers that the satellite Titan has a substantial atmosphere
  • 1946 – American launch of a camera-equipped V-2 rocket provides the first image of the Earth from space
  • 1949 – Gerard Kuiper discovers Uranus's moon Miranda and Neptune's moon Nereid
  • 1950 – Jan Oort suggests the presence of a cometary Oort cloud
  • 1951 – Kuiper argues for an annular reservoir of comets between 40-100 astronomical units from the Sun, the Kuiper belt


  • 1959 – Explorer 6 sends the first image of the entire earth from Space.
  • 1959 – Luna 3 sends the first images of another celestial body, the Moon, from space, including its unseen far side.
  • 1962 – The Mariner 2 Venus flyby performs the first closeup observations of another planet
  • 1964 – The Mariner 4 spacecraft provides the first detailed images of the surface of Mars
  • 1966 – The Luna 9 Moon lander provides the first images from the surface of another celestial body
Earth taken from Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. Image as originally shown to the public displays extensive flaws and striping.
  • 1967 – Venera 4 provides the first information on Venus's atmosphere
  • 1968 – The Apollo 8 becomes the first manned lunar mission, providing historic images of the whole Earth.
  • 1970 – The Venera 7 Venus lander sends back the first information ever successfully obtained from the surface of another planet
  • 1971 – The Mariner 9 Mars spacecraft becomes the first to successfully orbit another planet. It provides the first detailed maps of the Martian surface, discovering much of the planet's topography, including the volcano Olympus Mons and the canyon system Valles Marineris, which is named in its honor.
  • 1971 – Mars 3 lands on Mars, and transmits the first partial image from the surface of another planet.
  • 1973 – Skylab astronauts discover the Sun's coronal holes.
  • 1973 – Pioneer 10 flies by Jupiter, providing the first closeup images of the planet and revealing its intense radiation belts.
  • 1973 – Mariner 10 provides the first closeup images of the clouds of Venus.
  • 1974 – Mariner 10 provides the first closeup images of the surface of Mercury.
  • 1975 – Venera 9 becomes the first probe to successfully transmit images from the surface of Venus.



Annular eclipse of the Sun by Phobos as viewed by the Mars Curiosity rover (20 August 2013).

See also


  1. A. Sachs (2 May 1974), "Babylonian Observational Astronomy", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Royal Society of London, 276 (1257): 43-50 [45 & 48-9], Bibcode:1974RSPTA.276...43S, doi:10.1098/rsta.1974.0008, JSTOR 74273
  2. Adi Setia (2004), "Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi on Physics and the Nature of the Physical World: A Preliminary Survey", Islam & Science, 2, archived from the original on 10 July 2012, retrieved 2 March 2010
  3. Livingston, John W. (1971), "Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah: A Fourteenth Century Defense against Astrological Divination and Alchemical Transmutation", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 91 (1): 96–103 [99], doi:10.2307/600445