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Shvoong Home>Books>ghost planet Review

ghost planet

Book Review   by:paluri     Original Author: p.naga prasad
ª
 
Ghost planet
In 1859, an amateur French claimed tohave seen a small
planet orbiting even closer to the Sun than mercury. At
that time, France’s leading Astronomer Urbain Leverrier,was
trying to find out why Mercury was slightly off course in
its orbit. When he heard that a new planet had been
sighted be thought he had found anexplanatin for Mercury’s
slight deviatin from its calculated course:the
gravitational pulof thehitherto unknown planet was
disturbing its orbit. Based on reports of sightings of the
planet by various astronomers,Leverrier calculated that the
planet(he named it Vulcan)was orbiting the Sun at a
distance of about 21 million kilometers and that it had a
year of only 20 earth days. Leverrier had a greate
reputatin. Some years earlier he had discovered Neptune
solelythrough calculations and now when he said he had
discovered another planet using the same methods, the
astronomers of the day had no reason to doubt his claim.
Only, try as theymight,theycould not get so much as a
glimpse of the planet. Even those who thought they had
spotted it failed to get it into their sights a second
time. Leverrier explained that the planet must be made of
semi-transparent material and that a planet so close to the
Sun would naturally be hard to spot because of the solar
glare. He died in 19877 convinced that he had discovered
two planets(Neptune being the other one). Astronomers vied
witheach other to become the first tosight the planet
inthepositin predicted by Leverrier but when Vulcan
remained elusive a feeling began to gain ground that the
great Lerverrier had blundered. By the end of that century
very few astronomers believed in the existence o Vulcan.
The planet was finally deleted from solar maps when
Mercury’s slight deviatin from its course theory of general
relativity,in1915.
Published: October 21, 2005   
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