A tiny, mov­ing point of light – the dis­cov­ery of Plu­to

A tiny, mov­ing point of light – the dis­cov­ery of Plu­to
Credit: Lowell Observatory.

A tiny, moving point of light – the discovery of Pluto

Ev­ery pupil in the US is taught the sto­ry of the dis­cov­ery of Plu­to. In 1905, the US as­tronomer Per­ci­val Low­ell (1855–1916) sug­gest­ed that the per­tur­ba­tions of Nep­tune’s or­bit re­quired the ex­is­tence of a ninth plan­et. For 11 years, Low­ell tried to find this ce­les­tial body, but was un­able to do so. The ob­ser­va­tion did not come un­til 14 years af­ter Low­ell’s death, through a young re­search as­sis­tant named Clyde Tombaugh. For many weeks dur­ing the win­ter of 1929/1930, Tombaugh con­duct­ed ob­ser­va­tions at the Low­ell Ob­ser­va­to­ry in Flagstaff (Ari­zona) – named af­ter the fa­mous as­tronomer – of the ar­eas of the sky where it had been sug­gest­ed that the plan­et would be lo­cat­ed. On 18 Febru­ary 1930, us­ing a blink com­para­tor pro­duced by Carl Zeiss in Je­na, Ger­many, Tombaugh dis­cov­ered a mov­ing spot on two pho­to­graph­ic plates. The dis­cov­ery was an­nounced on 13 March – Low­ell’s birth­day.

Every pupil in the US is taught the story of the discovery of Pluto. In 1905, the US astronomer Percival Lowell (1855–1916) suggested that the perturbations of Neptune’s orbit required the existence of a ninth planet. For 11 years, Lowell tried to find this celestial body, but was unable to do so. The observation did not come until 14 years after Lowell’s death, through a young research assistant named Clyde Tombaugh. For many weeks during the winter of 1929/1930, Tombaugh conducted observations at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff (Arizona) – named after the famous astronomer – of the areas of the sky where it had been suggested that the planet would be located. On 18 February 1930, using a blink comparator produced by Carl Zeiss in Jena, Germany, Tombaugh discovered a moving spot on two photographic plates. The discovery was announced on 13 March – Lowell’s birthday.

More galleries

Cookies help us to provide our services. By using our website you agree that we can use cookies. Read more about our Privacy Policy and visit the following link: Privacy Policy

Main menu