By Suryansh Upmanyu
Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it had occurred.
For this incident, we go back in time to 1930.
Flagstaff, Arizona, February 18: The astronomical society is abuzz with excitement here as reports are coming in of the possible discovery of a 9th planet in our solar system. The discovery was made at the Lowell Observatory by a 24-year-old amateur astronomer, Mr. Clyde Tombaugh.
Mr. Tombaugh and other astronomers were motivated to search for another planet after many astronomers – including Percival Lowell – had hypothesized about the same. These hypotheses were based on the detection of some slight wobbling in the movements of Uranus and Neptune as they completed their revolutions around the sun. For his ground-breaking discovery, Mr. Tombaugh used a 33-cm telescope along with photographic plates and a blink comparator to detect movements across the night sky.
According to inside information, the findings will be subjected to scrutiny by many eminent astronomers as they will decide the fate of the yet-to-be-named celestial body. Dr. Kenneth Anderson (a colleague of Mr. Tombaugh at the Observatory) gave us a comment on the developments: “There has been a finding. Everyone is really excited here but no conclusion can be drawn until we take a closer look into the data.”
March 13, 1980 (Adopted!): the discovery of a 9th planet was publically announced by The Lowell Observatory, which also coincided with the birthday of Mr. Lowell.
(I cannot believe they delayed the announcement of an important scientific discovery only because of a person’s birthday! On the other hand, now you know how scientists celebrate birthdays of other scientists. Imagine Pierre Curie telling Marie Curie, “Hey honey, look what I got for you on your birthday! A new scientific discovery!”)
June 22, 1978: Pluto’s only moon, Charon, was discovered by James Christy and Robert Harrington.
August 23, 2006 (Disowned): The International Astronomical Union decided to demote Pluto to a ‘’dwarf planet’’ status. This was a direct result of a change in IAU definitions which now stated that a celestial body should have a large enough mass for its gravity to pull it into a spherical shape and should have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. Since Pluto’s elliptical orbit overlapped with the orbit of Neptune, it was automatically disqualified from its “planet” status.
(Pluto’s “planet” status was revoked only because of a change in the definition of a planet. I can imagine Mr. Tombaugh rolling in his grave.)
June 14, 2015 (Readopted?): The scientific community was abuzz once again. As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft went into uncharted territory and sent in photos of “the abandoned planet” for the first time, scientists were finally able to get a close look at its terrain and atmosphere.
They were not the only ones. The internet community was having a field day too. A certain ‘heart-shaped’ area on Pluto’s surface was drawing a lot of attention, leading to posts like these:
Loving earthlings even after they disowned him. Pluto: The ‘’Planet’’ With A Heart.
Speaking of uncharted territories, there were quite a few back home too. Read this.(http://edtimes.in/2015/08/back-in-time-lieutenant-james-cook-journeys-into-the-unknown.html)
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