Le Verrier & Hypothetical Planets Essay

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Urbain Le Verrier was a French mathematician who was born in 1811. In his mid-twenties, he was hired to teach astronomy at the Ecole Polytechnic Paris. He was fascinated with planets and did research on Mercury early on in his teaching career, which included statistics about the planet’s orbit and its varying nearness to the Sun. After his extensive research on Mercury, Le Verrier became very interested in the motions of Uranus. He was very curious about its orbit, and wondered why it didn’t match up with what other scientists found through other calculations. He also predicted that there must be another planet or something similar beyond Uranus causing such an unusual orbit. He shared his discovery with an astronomer, Johann Gottried Galle at the Berlin Observatory. Galle located the object very soon after Le Verrier shared his information. The strange orbiting object was indeed a new planet – Neptune. Le Verrier was given the credit for discovering Neptune, until it was made public that – just by coincidence – a mathematician named John Couch Adams had come to the same conclusions as Le Verrier. Because of that, both Adams and Le Verrier are credited with the discovery of Neptune in 1845. Because of this discovery, Le Verrier was also honored in Paris. His name is one of only 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. Shortly after the discovery of Neptune, Le Verrier was convinced that there still might be another planet further out in our Solar System. It turned out to be a large moon of Neptune, named Triton. With this discovery, more accurate and detailed data could be obtained about Neptune, such as Neptune’s mass and orbital path. A British astronomer, William Lassell, is actually credited with the discovery of Triton. The moon Triton also happens to be colder in temperature than any other object in our Solar System, coming in at an average

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