Friday, September 24, 2010

The Search for Planet Vulcan and Planet X

I always had a deep interest in the history of astronomy and astrology. From a very early age, growing up hearing, watching and, reading about what was thought to be planets that explained inconsistencies in the planets and their elliptical orbits around the sun. Also knowing the deep history of astronomy from where it slowly split off from Astrology. One knew how it removed ideas piece by piece, replacing them with new science. This is what scientifically is described as paradigm changes.

Ever since Newtons laws of gravity was not totally able to account for the orbital movement of Mercury, it was postulated the existence of Vulcan, a planet so close to the sun, that it made it almost impossible to be observed directly from Earth. Just like mathematical calculations based on orbital movement in the orbit of the planet Uranus, directly caused the finding of the planet Neptune in September 23 in 1846, one tried to solve the orbital movement seen in Mercury mathematically as suggested to be the planet Vulcan In 1859, by the French mathematician and astronomer Urbain Le Verrier. Urbain had been searching and calculating the position of Vulcan since 1843, and thought to this death in 1877 that he had actually proved the existence of Vulcan. There had even been reported possible sightings of Planet Vulcan close to the sun on several occasions by astronomers between 1819-1865. The Vulcan theory was not abandoned until 1915 when Einstein's Theory of Relativity explained Murcury's orbital system, replacing the old Newtonian laws of motion and gravity, still it took decades before the scientific community and much later the public accepted that there was no need for Vulcanus to explain Mercury's orbit. Today Vulcan is a pretty much a forgotten part of our astronomical history, other than the use of the name Vulcan in popular science fiction, which has nothing in common. 

Similar to Vulcan is the search for the mysterious Planet X, which was first suggested by the scientific community to explain discrepancies in Neptune's orbital movement, much the same way Vulcan was used to explain Mercury, and Neptune was used to explain the orbit of Uranus. This search for planet X has kept both scientists and amateur astronomers on the lookout for the large Planet X. Then when Pluto was first discovered in 1930 it seemed to solve the ancient question of problem of Neptune's orbit. What they did not know back then was that Pluto was extremely bright, due to its very reflective surface and what they had seen was not one single planet, but Pluto and its moons Charon, Nix and Hydra. The brightness and the blurry image that its close satellites caused them to miscalculate Pluto's size thinking it at first to be the size of Earth, making it more than 500 times bigger than it's actual size.

By the time the they realized their mistake, that Pluto was not the solution, and they still had no other solution to the riddle of Neptune, they went on postulating that there could still be a large planet in the outer solar system outside the orbit of Neptune and Pluto, and the search was on. And the further out in our solar system one searches, the bigger the planet would have to be in order to account for the orbital discrepancies of Neptune, making it less and less likely anybody will find one. Unless one believes the conspiracies that all astronomical societies of the world has found the planet X and is actually keeping it a secret.

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