Today in science: Remembering Carl Sagan

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It was Carl Sagan who said, “We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” Image via Dab’s Magazine.

November 9, 1934. Today is the 82nd anniversary of the birth of astronomer and astronomy popularizer extraordinaire Carl Sagan. Most of us are familiar with this late American astronomer through his books and television series Cosmos. Sagan also contributed greatly to the field of planetary science and monumentally – perhaps immortally – to the American space program.

Carl Edward Sagan was born on November 9, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied physics at the University of Chicago and earned his doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics in 1960.

In the 1960s, one of Sagan’s earliest works in professional astronomical research shed light on the atmospheres of our solar system’s planets. The atmospheres of Mars and Venus, for example, are known now to resemble that of Earth. But in Sagan’s day, scientists were still trying to understand how come Mars could be so cold while Venus is so hot. Sagan successfully confirmed that Venus could be a greenhouse furnace by using data from tables for steam boiler engineering.