Saturday Scenes

Wed 6 January 2010

Vulcan

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 18:59

On the 2nd of January, 1860, the discovery of the planet Vulcan was announced at a lecture at the Académie des Sciences in Paris.

Mercury’s orbit had long been known to be eccentric, ranging from 46 million to 70 million kilometers away from the sun. Urbain Le Verrier believed that the orbital deviations were caused by an as yet unidentified mass on the far side of Mercury – specifically a planet or an asteroid belt. He believed the planet had not been detected because of its nearness to the sun. Another French astronomer excitedly pointed out that he had seen “a round black spot” which he believed could be a planet transiting the Sun.

Le Verrier decided that this was almost certainly the intra-Mercurial planet he’d predicted, which he named Vulcan. Le Verrier hoped that it would be possible to spot Vulcan during a solar eclipse but unfortunately, confirmed sightings of the planet remained elusive. The question of Vulcan became a huge controversy, with excitement peaking in 1878, a year after Le Verrier’s death.

The Planet That Wasn’t by Isaac Asimov (warning, annoying pop-up windows)

As the nineteenth century closed, photography was coming into its own. There was no more necessity to make feverish measurements before the eclipse was over, or to try to make out clearly what was going on across the face of the Sun before it was all done with. You took photographs and studied them at leisure.

With that, hope for the existence of Vulcan flickered nearly to extinction. Yet Mercury’s perihelion did move. If Newton’s law of gravitation was correct (and no other reason for supposing its incorrectness had arisen in all the time since Newton) there had to be some sort of gravitational pull from inside Mercury’s orbit.

And, of course, there was, but it originated in a totally different way from that which anyone had imagined. In 1915, Albeit Einstein explained the matter in his General Theory of Relativity.

And 150 years later, on the 2nd of January, 2010, these shining stars of Twitter submitted photographs to be featured on Saturday Scenes … and here they are:

Isn’t this week’s set is full of fun? It seems like there’s a lot of personality shining through the snapshots.

The submitters:

You can find out what all of these great people are up to simply by checking the Saturday Scenes list which includes all recent participants.

And if you’d like to join in, just take a photograph on Saturday and send the link to @SatScenes with the location! It’s easy and fun and we love seeing new sights.

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