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November in History

November 16, 1492 - A meteorite weighing about 260 pounds fell at Ensisheim in Alsace about noon. It buried itself to a depth of 5 feet. The impact was witnessed by a child.

November 5, 1601 - A storm of Leonid meteors was observed. One observer reported that  the "stars became like rain." The storm occurred 465 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 12, 1799 - A strong Leonid meteor storm was seen across the western hemisphere. German scientist Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and his companion Bonpland were in Venezuela at the time at made note of the event. The actual hourly meteor rate of the shower is not known.

November 12-13, 1833 - North America witnessed a great Leonid meteor storm, though it was not yet known by that name. One observer from the U.S. reported that the "stars descended like snow." Witnesses later recalled 1833 to their families as "the year the stars fell." The meteors fell at an approximate rate of 100,000 per hour. This event initiated the first serious study of meteor showers. Immediately after the shower, Professors Olmsted and Twining of then Yale College called attention to the fact that the meteors all radiated from the same point in the sky, indicating that they were all part of a swarm moving in the same orbital path. Later, Professor Hubert Anson Newton (1830-1896), also of Yale College, calculated that the orbit had a period of 33 years and used records to trace appearances of the shower as far back as AD 902. He then successfully predicted the appearance of the 1866 Leonid shower. (The 1833 Leonid storm occurred 308 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.)

There is historical evidence that Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) witnessed the Leonid meteor storm of 1833 as a young man of 24. According to cross-referenced records and personal journals, Lincoln was apparently in New Salem, Illinois staying at the Rutledge Tavern, a log cabin then owned by Henry Onstot, a cooper by trade (bucket and barrel maker) and member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Lincoln recounted the story in the presence of American writer Walt Whitman (1819-1892) who was a frequent guest of the Lincoln White House. Whitman later published the story in his book Specimen Days & Collect, published 1882. When asked by another White House guest whether the Union would survive the ongoing Civil War, Whitman noted that Lincoln, ever the story-teller, replied with this story. "When I was a young man in Illinois," said he, "I boarded for a time with a Deacon of the Presbyterian church. One night I was roused from my sleep by a rap at the door, & I heard the Deacon's voice exclaiming 'Arise, Abraham, the day of judgement has come!' I sprang from my bed & rushed to the window, and saw the stars falling in great showers! But looking back of them in the heavens I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and true in their places. Gentlemen, the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now."

November 17, 1865 - A Leonid meteor shower was seen with many colorful fireballs. This shower was the prelude to the great meteor storm the following year.

November 14, 1866 - A storm of Leonid meteors was observed. The maximum took place over Europe around 1:10 UT. Meteors fell at an approximate rate of 5,000 per hour. The storm was notable in that H. A. Newton of then Yale College predicted that the Leonid storm would occur this year based upon orbital calculations and occurrences of storms in previous years.(The 1866 Leonid storm occurred 299 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.)

November 27, 1886 - An iron meteorite fell near Mazapil in northern Mexico. Because the meteorite fell on the maximum date of the Andromedid meteor shower, it was suggested that the meteor was a fragment from Periodic Comet Biela, the parent comet of the Andromedid shower.

November 13, 1867 - A storm of Leonid meteors was observed. The maximum took place over North America with a bright Moon in the sky. Meteors fell at an approximate rate of 3,600 per hour. The storm occurred 664 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 13, 1868 - A storm of Leonid meteors was observed. Meteors fell at an approximate rate of 1,500 per hour. The storm occurred 1,030 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 27, 1872 - A storm of Andromedid meteors fell over western Europe. It was recorded that the meteors fell at the rate of several thousand per hour. The peak of the shower had actually been calculated by Weiss, D'Arrest and Galle for November 28.

November 27, 1885 - An Andromedid meteor storm fell over Europe. The meteors appeared to fall at the rate of 75,000 per hour, though counting was virtually impossible.

November 27, 1886 - A shower of Andromedid meteors fell. On this same day an iron meteorite fell near Mazapil in northern Mexico. It was suggested that the meteorite was a fragment from the Andromedid shower, and therefore a fragment of Periodic Comet Biela, the parent comet of the shower.

November 23, 1892 - A fairly strong Andromedid meteor shower was observed.

November 24, 1899 - An Andromedid meteor shower was observed with meteors falling at a rate of 200 per hour.

November 15, 1940 - An Andromedid meteor shower was observed with meteors falling at the rate of about 30 per hour. This was one of the last years in which Andromedid meteors were observed in any strength.

November 30, 1953 - A meteorite crashed through the living room ceiling of Mrs. Hewlett Hodges of Sylocuga, Alabama. Mrs. Hodges received a grazing blow on the hip, but was not seriously injured. A revealing photograph of the bruise was circulated in the newspapers.

November 28, 1964 - An Atlas-Agena rocket launched the U.S. spacecraft Mariner 4 on its fly-by mission of the planet Mars. Mariner 4 passed behind Mars on July 14, 1965. Its closest approach to the surface was 9,846 kilometers (6,118 miles). Mariner 4 transmitted back 22 television pictures of the surface. The results of its occultation experiment (the study of its transmissions it passed behind Mars and then out again) showed there was an extremely thin Martian atmosphere (5-10 millibars) of carbon dioxide. Mariner 4's images revealed the Martian surface to be extensively cratered.

November 11, 1966 - A Titan rocket launched the Gemini 12 spacecraft with astronauts James A. Lovell and Edwin W. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. This was the final Gemini mission, which included a 5-1/2-hour EVA (extravehicular activity, or spacewalk). The flight last 94 hours 34 minutes. The crew returned safely to earth on November 15.

November 17, 1966 - The peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower became a meteor storm that was best observed by the western U.S. and eastern Siberia. It was estimated that over 150,000 meteors were observed per hour, averaging approximately 41 meteors per second. During one 40-minute period, over 1,000 meteors per minute were observed. The average magnitude of the trails was 1.5 or 2. Some of the brighter meteor trails lasted for more than a minute. The storm occurred 561 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 8, 1968 - The spacecraft Pioneer 10 was launched into a solar orbit. It performed six experiments and transmitted data on the Sun's radiation.

November 14, 1969 - A Saturn V rocket launched Apollo 12 mission with astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., Richard F. Gordon Jr. and Alan L. Bean. Conrad and Bean made the second manned moon landing on November 18. During their stay they performed 15 hours 30 minutes of extravehicular activity (or moonwalks) which included examination of the Surveyor 3 spacecraft, which was within walking distance of their landing site, 183 meters (600 feet). They collected 74.7 pounds of lunar samples and stayed on the surface for a total of 31 hours 31 minutes. The crew returned safely to Earth on November 24.

November 10, 1970 - The Soviet spacecraft Luna 17 was launched toward the Moon. It soft-landed on the Sea of Rains on November 17. On this mission Lunokhod 1 was used, marking the first use of a self-propelled robotic vehicle. The mission transmitted television photos of the surface, performed lunar soil analysis, as well as other experiments.

November 3, 1973 - Mariner 10 was launched on its fly-by mission to Venus and Mercury. Mariner 10 passed Venus on February 5, 1974, and passed Mercury on March 29. This mission marked the first time that the gravity of one planet (Venus) was used to propel a spacecraft toward another (Mercury).

November 16, 1973 - A Saturn 1B rocket launched Skylab 4, the final mission of the Skylab program. Astronauts Gerald P. Carr, Edward G. Gibson and William Pogue spent nearly three months in space aboard the Skylab space station. The crew obtained medical data on themselves for use in extending the duration of human space flight. The crew performed four EVAs (or spacewalks) for a total of 44 hours 40 minutes. This marked the longest space mission to date, for 84 days, 1 hour, 16 minutes. They returned safely to Earth, with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, on February 8, 1974.

November 13, 1978 - the U.S. satellite HEAO 2 was launched into Earth orbit. HEAO 2 examined selected X-ray astronomical sources in detail with the largest X-ray telescope ever made.

November 12, 1981 - The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched (STS-2) with astronauts John H. Engle and Richard H. Truly. This was the second flight of Columbia, making it the first reuse of a space shuttle. This was also the first shuttle mission with a scientific payload. The crew returned safely to Earth on November 14.

November 11, 1982 - The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched (STS-5) with astronauts Vance Brand, Robert Overmyer, William Lenoir, and Joseph Allen. This was the first four-person crew to fly in space. The crew returned safely to Earth on November 16.

November 28, 1983 - The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched (STS-9) with astronauts John W. Young, Brewster Shaw Jr., Robert Parker, Owen K. Garriott, Byron Lichtenberg, and Ulf Merbold. This was the first six-person crew to fly in space. This was also the first Spacelab mission of the space shuttle program. The crew returned safely to Earth on December 8.

November 8, 1984 - The Space Shuttle Discovery was launched (STS-51-A) with astronauts Frederick Hauck, David M. Walker, Dr. Anna L. Fisher, Joseph Allen, and Dale Gardner. The crew performed the first satellite retrieval, repair and re-deploy mission. The returned safely to Earth on November 16.

November 26, 1985 - The Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched (STS-61-B) with astronauts Brewster Shaw Jr., Bryan D. O'Connor, Sherwood C. Spring, Mary L. Cleave, Jerry L. Ross, C. Walker, and Rodolfo Neri (of Mexico). Neri became the first Mexican in space. The crew performed tests in assembling space structures. The crew returned safely to Earth on December 3.

November 12, 1995 - The Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched (STS-75) with astronauts Kenneth D. Cameron, James D. Halsell Jr., Chris Hadfield, Jerry L. Ross, and William S. McArthur Jr. The crew performed the second docking of a Space Shuttle with the Russian space station Mir on November 15. They connected a 15-foot, Russian-made, permanent docking tunnel to Mir for use on future Space Shuttle missions. They also brought two new solar-powered panels for Mir as well as supplies and scientific equipment. The U.S. and Russian astronauts spent three days together aboard Mir conducting experiments. Atlantis un-docked from Mir on November 18 and returned to Earth on November 20.

November 7, 1996 - The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft was launched toward the planet Mars. It entered orbit of the Red Planet on September 11, 1997 and began a 2-year mapping survey of the entire Martian surface. Included in its achievements were the discovery of magnetism on the planet and observations of the Martian moon Phobos.

November 19, 1996 - The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched (STS-80) with astronauts Kenneth D. Cockrell, Kent V. Rominger, Tamara E. Jernigan, Thomas D. Jones, and Dr. F. Story Musgrave. This was the longest-duration shuttle flight to date and Musgrave, at age 61, was the oldest astronaut in space to date and the first to fly on all five space shuttles. Two free-flying science satellites were deployed and later retrieved during the mission -- an ultraviolet telescope and the Wake Shield (semiconductor processing) Facility. A jammed airlock hatch canceled two scheduled EVAs (or spacewalks). The crew returned safely to Earth on December 7.

November 17-18, 1997 - A Leonid meteor storm was observed. The meteor rate was estimated over 100 per hour. The storm occurred 108 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 17, 1998 - A Leonid meteor shower was observed with many colorful fireballs, peaking at a rate of over 450 fireballs per hour around 5:00 UT. The observed colors included violet, red, blue, and green. The "regular" meteors peaked, later, around 17:00 UT, at a rate of 150 per hour. The shower began over Europe and finished over North America. It was suggested that this Leonid shower, like the one in 1865, was prelude to a Leonid storm the following year. The storm occurred 257 days after the passing of parent comet P/Temple-Tuttle.

November 19, 1998 - The Space Shuttle Columbia was launched with astronauts Kevin R. Kregel, Steven W. Lindsey, Takao Doi (of Japan), Winston E. Scott, Kalpana Chawla, and Leonid K. Kadenyuk (of the Ukraine). On November 21 the crew deployed the Spartan solar-observation satellite. Following its malfunction, it was retrieved during an EVA (or spacewalk) on November 24. A second EVA was performed on December 3 to test space station assembly tools and techniques. Astronauts Doi and Scott marked up a total EVA time of 12 hours, 44 minutes. The crew returned safely to Earth on December 5.


James M. Thomas, last updated November 15, 1999.

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