The Moons of Neptune
The planet Neptune, name for the Roman sea god, is the eighth and most distant planet from the sun. Its diameter is four times larger than that of Earth and consequently, is the fourth largest planet. Discovered in the mid-1800s, it is one of two planets in the solar system that cannot be seen without a telescope. The other one is Pluto. Because of this distinction, it is the first planet located through mathematical predictions rather that observation. It was recorded by Galileo as a star. How is a planet’s existence ‘predicted’ mathematically? Uranus, thought to be the furthest lying planet in the solar system, was observed out of its predicted position at certain times. It was theorized that its orbit was being influenced by the gravitational pull of some large unknown planet.
A young astronomer, John C. Adams, began working with mathematical
models to pinpoint this unknown planet’s location. Although his work
was incredibly accurate, when he sent his data to his superiors in
the world of astronomy, they had low confidence in his findings and
did not even attempt to look through a telescope to verify his work.
Unbeknownst to Adams, a French mathematician began working on the
project as well. Sending his findings to the Urania Observatory in
Berlin, Germany, Johann Galle and his assistant located the planet
on September 23, 1846. Both Adams and the French mathematician were
credited with Neptune’s discovery.
Out of this world - my
Copyright striton.com 2009