A photographic view of part of the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster), the bright red star at the upper right is the famous variable star Mira (Omicron Ceti). By DSS 2/ESO (http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1212d/) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons;
1596 - Mira, first variable star, discovered
While trying to observe Mercury in the night sky, Dutch amateur astronomer David Fabricius discovers Mira, the first example of a variable star. When first observed, Fabricius noticed the star had a brightness of three on the magnitude scale, which increased to a brightness of two over a few weeks, before fading entirely within two months. It was later measured that the star’s brightness cycled over a period of eleven months. The group of stars that vary in this way, known as Mira variables or Mira-type stars, contains over 6,000 known stars.
1908 - Neanderthal skeleton discovered, misconceptions ensue
The first relatively complete Neanderthal skeleton is discovered in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. Due to the heavy brow and low forehead, similar to that of other large apes, scientists of the time believed that they were an unsophisticated, unintelligent, and even brutish species. The Old Man of La Chapelle, as the specimen became known, was reconstructed by Pierre Marcellin Boule to show the hunched, slouching posture we have since come to associate with the species.
However, more recent studies have suggested that Boule’s preconceptions of the species greatly influenced the image he created of them, and led to widespread misconceptions about Homo Neanderthalensis. In fact, it appears that they used tools, were good hunters, took good care of their weak relatives – such as the Old Man of La Chapelle, whose arthritis would have prevented him from eating without help – and even made ornamental objects.
1926 - Traffic lights in Piccadilly Circus
The New Lights Of London (1926) (YouTube/British Pathé) - This video has no sound
Britain’s first electric traffic light system is installed in Piccadilly Circus. In 1868, a gas-operated system of red and green lamps and semaphore arms was installed outside the Houses of Parliament, and was much like a railway signal system. However, the use of gas resulted in an explosion which killed a policeman, and traffic control systems were not installed in Britain again until the American electric system was invented.
1958 - First undersea North Pole voyage made
The nuclear submarine USS Nautilus makes the first passage under the North Pole, travelling at depths of over 150 metres. Nautilus revolutionised nautical engineering, as it could remain underwater for extended periods of time due to the atomic engine needing no air and minimal quantities of nuclear fuel.
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