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The latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy appeared at the start of 2012. It contains some 4,300 entries on all aspects of astronomy, astrophysics, and space science, written by a team of specialist contributors, both amateur and professional, under my editorship.

The size of the Dictionary has steadily grown since it was first published in 1997, when it contained nearly 4,000 entries. A heavily revised version appeared in 2003 in which the number of entries increased to over 4,000. In 2004 that revised edition was reprinted with further updates, mostly concerning space missions and observatories.

A second edition of the Dictionary was published in September 2007. For this, all entries were reviewed by a team of specialists, mostly different from those who had written the original entries. A new departure for this edition was the inclusion of URLs of websites, notably for space missions, observatories, various other institutions, and online catalogues. This 2007 second edition incorporated over 160 new entries, although some minor ones, particularly for small planetary satellites, were deleted.

The current printing is a revised version of the second edition, reset and with a new cover. It introduces over 50 new entries and a new table of planetary data, while nearly 500 other entries have been revised and updated. In this edition the URLs have been moved to a dedicated web page which also includes links to over 100 illustrations.

Updates, additions and corrections to the 2012 edition will appear here as necessary. OUP’s online edition of the book is updated to incorporate these changes.


Addenda and corrigenda

Apollo project:  Neil Armstrong d.2012.

astronomical unit (au):  the astronomical unit is now defined as 149 597 870 700 m exactly. The symbol is “au”. The Gaussian gravitational constant k is no longer used in defining the au.

BepiColombo:  the launch date is now slated for 2016 and the arrival is 2024.

COROT:  ceased observations 2012 November

Curiosity:  launched 2011 November, landed 2012 August in a crater called Gale.

Dawn:  departed Vesta 2012 September and now on its way to Ceres.

Deep Impact:  the flyby of Comet Hartley was in 2010 November.

Dobsonian telescope:  Dobson. d.2014.

European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT):  diameter of main mirror is now reduced to 39.3 m, with nearly 800 segments each 1.4 m wide.

ExoMars:  now a joint mission between ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos

Gaia:  launched 2013 December.

Gaussian gravitational constant:  it is no longer used for calculating the astronomical unit, which is now defined as a set distance.

gravitational force:  in the equation, subscripts and superscripts should not be italic.

Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS):  now cancelled.

Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL):  launched 2011 September. Grail A and Grail B were renamed Ebb and Flow. Mission ended in 2012 December when the twin craft impacted the Moon.

Herbig Ae/Be star; Herbig–Haro object:  Herbig d.2013.

Herschel Space Observatory: ceased observations in 2013 April.

Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS):  launched 2013 June.

James Webb Space Telescope:  now scheduled for launch in 2018 October or later.

Juno mission:  launched 2011 August. Due at Jupiter in 2016 July.

Kaguya (formerly Selene):  impacted Moon 2009 June.

Lalande:  second forename is Jérôme.

LISA Pathfinder:  launch is now planned for 2015.

Lovell, Bernard:  d.2012.

Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE):  launched 2013 September. End of mission 2014 April 18 (impacted the Moon).

Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS):  launch now scheduled for 2015 March.

Mars Science Laboratory:  launched 2011 November, landed in 2012 August.

Neptune:  discovery of a 14th moon by the Hubble Space Telescope was announced in 2013 July

NuSTAR:  launched 2012 June 13.

Phobos-Grunt:  launched 2011 November but failed to leave transfer orbit and re-entered 2012 January.

Pluto:  A fifth moon was announced in 2012 July. The fourth and fifth moons are named Kerberos and Styx.

Square Kilometre Array:  the component telescopes of the SKA will be sited jointly in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

transit, planetary:  the next two transits of Venus are on 2117 December 11 and 2125 December 08

trojans:  first Earth Trojan discovered by WISE in 2011

Very Large Array:  now renamed the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array

VLBI Space Observatory Programme (VSOP):  VSOP-2, aka ASTRO-G, now cancelled.


Have you found anything that needs changing? If so, please send me an email.

Ian Ridpath

ian @ ianridpath.com



Page last updated 2014 October.