Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

April 27, 1997
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Sputnik: Traveling Companion
MSFC Historical Archives

Explanation: Sputnik means "traveling companion". Despite the innocuous sounding name, the launch of the Earth's first "artificial moon", Sputnik 1, by the Soviets on October 4, 1957 shocked the free world, setting in motion events which resulted in the creation of NASA and the race to the Moon. Sputnik 1 was a 184 pound, 22 inch diameter sphere with four whip antennas connected to battery powered transmitters. The transmitters broadcast a continuous "beeping" signal to an astounded earthbound audience for 23 days. A short month later, on November 3, the Soviets followed this success by launching a dog into orbit aboard Sputnik 2.

Tomorrow's picture: Io's Sodium Cloud

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.