Some remarkable facts related to astronomy
Here we list some less wellknown but potentially interesting facts (mostly
trivia) related to astronomy.
- Uranus had been seen in prediscovery observation on several ("almost" 20,
according to John North) occasions, but all those observers assumed it was
just another star. The earliest known record is an observation by John
Flamsteed 1690, who cataloged it as star "34 Tauri". Later, Bradley had seen
it, Tobias Meyer had seen it in 1756, and Le Monnier had observed it on a
number of occasions between 1750 and 1771.
(Uranus was discovered 1781 by William Herschel)
- Neptune had been seen in prediscovery observations by Galileo of December
1612 and by Challis when checking John Couch Adams' prediction 1845.
(Neptune was discovered 1846 by Galle after predictions by Urban Leverrier)
- Pluto has been photographed in pre-discovery: by Nicolson at Mt. Wilson
Observatory in 1919 (see
IAU Circular 288),
by E.E. Barnard in January, 1921,
by Ross at Williams Bay in January, 1927, and
by Delporte at Uccle in January, 1927 (see
MNRAS Vol. 90, p. 768).
For an overview, see Bower, E.C. and Whipple, F.L.,
PASP Vol. 42, No. 248, p. 236-240.
(Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, see
IAU Circular No. 255)
- Stars are often named by Flamsteed numbers, assigned to them by John
Flamsteed around 1700. These numbers come from a catalog which Flamsteed
actually did not want to publish. Instead, Edmond Halley, who had
urged him, let them publish on his own in about 400 printed copies in 1712.
Flamsteed got so angry about this that he burned all copies he could get,
about 300. His catalog was finally published, without the numbers,
after Flamsteed's death in 1725.
- The supernova event which created
was possibly observed by John Flamsteed in 1680. He named it 3 Cassiopeiae.
- Saturn's Moons: Until 1965, Saturn had 9 known moons. In 1966,
on occasion of another Ring Plane Crossing of Earth, Dolfuss discovered
a tenth, Janus - well, more or less (meaning that it was discounted by
some, but later the discovery was "restored" by Voyager finding, but
actually it is not known if Dollfus found Janus or its co-orbital,
Epimetheus). In 1978, it was suggested that there may be two co-orbiting
moons (which was confirmed again by Voyager; for more details see
Bill Arnett's Janus page).
Voyager 1 and 2 photographed a number of
additional satellites of Saturn, a 1982 list from
Scientific American listed 25. Later, at least until the mid-1990s,
many astronomers considered only 18 of them as real, despite a large
number of additional discovery reports both from investigators of
Voyager images and Earth-bound observers, in particular during the
1995-96 Ring Plane Crossing. In October and December 2000, an additional
total of 12 new Saturnian moons has been announced, see
Bill Arnett's list.
- Photographic Plate Defect in the IC: J.L.E. Dreyer's
Second Index Catalogue of 1895 contains, besides many objects and a
number of "other" errors, a Phtographic Plate Defect,
at RA 12:37.8, Dec +15:12 (2000.0), in Coma Berenices, described as
"bM, mag 15" (brighter toward the middle, of magnitude 15).
The error was found by R.S. Dixon and George Sonneborn in 1980.