1846 – Neptune is discovered

1846 – Neptune is discovered

As part of our 200 year anniversary we are celebrating significant events and discoveries that have taken place since 1817. This week it is 1846 and the discovery of Neptune.

Neptune is the foundation for a great quiz question; which was the first planet to be discovered using maths?

You guessed it, Neptune! I may have given you a hint in fairness.

The discovery of Neptune began with the discovery of Uranus when two astronomers, John Couch Adams and Jean Joseph Le Verrier, noticed the planet’s orbit was being disrupted. By using maths, they were able to conclude that the reason for the disruption must be caused by gravity from another planet. Not only this but they were actually able to determine where the planet was and how much mass it had.

So there we go!

Well, not exactly. Both astronomers came up against objections when they tried to convince their teams this was worth looking into. In the end, despite their protests the teams would not dedicate any further time investigating this mystery planet.

But they were so close

They literally were. When a different astronomer, Johann Gottfried Galle read the work of Adams and Le Verrier he decided to see what he could find. He searched for the planet and found it within 1° of its predicted location – pretty impressive.

The planet was named Neptune after the Roman god of the oceans (another quiz question) and caused some controversy. Once it was ‘officially discovered’ both Adams and Le Verrier tried to take credit for being the first to find it. In the end, after much discussion, both astronomers were credited with its discovery on 23rd September 1846.

As always, we hope you found this interesting. Next week we will be leaping ahead a decade to 1856 when Neanderthal man was first identified.

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