Ascension, island (1998 pop. 712), 34 sq mi (88 sq km), in the S Atlantic, NW of St. Helena and belonging to the British St. Helena colony. Georgetown is the main settlement. Ascension is volcanic and rocky with little vegetation, but it supports considerable livestock (rabbits, wild goats, and partridges), much of which was brought in by the nonindigenous population. Sea turtles and terns breed there annually. The United States maintains missile, satellite tracking, and space research stations on the island. Discovered by the Portuguese João da Nova in 1501, Ascension was taken by the British in 1815 and used as a naval station. In 1922 it was made a dependency of St. Helena. The island served as a refueling base for British aircraft and ships during the Falkland Islands conflict between Britain and Argentina in 1982.
Ascension, name usually given to the departure of Jesus from earth as related in the Gospels according to Mark (16) and Luke (24) and in Acts 1.1-11. The annual commemoration of this is one of the principal feasts in most Christian churches. Ascension Thursday, as it is called, occurs on the 40th day after Easter, being the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter. In early English usage this festival was known as Holy Thursday.