Astronomer William Herschel noticed
a hazy object in the sky. He considered
whether it was a star, a comet, or a planet.
After increasing the strength of his telescope, the object became larger
and sharper when magnified, leading Herschel to believe it was another planet. (“Accounting for
Anomaly: The Discovery of Neptune,” n.d.).
The discovery of the suspected planet, Uranus, was confirmed in 1781. Before long, astronomers all over the world
wondered if there were other planets to be discovered. Astronomers soon discovered that the orbit of
Uranus was not like the orbits of other planets; it wobbled. This knowledge
lead to theories of why, and, one theory was that another planet was nearby. Herschel behaved scientifically by focusing on
the natural world and inspiring others to ongoing research.
Years later, Urbain Le Verrier, a
French Mathematician, tried to convince his fellow countrymen to search for a
planet that appeared as a “fuzzy dot against a background of thousands of
brighter stars” (“Accounting
for Anomaly: The Discovery of Neptune,” n.d.). Le Verrier had used mathematical calculations
to predict where this planet might be located.
He sent this information to a pair of German astronomers who worked at
the Berlin Observatory. They commenced a search for this presumed new planet. The
German Astronomer, Johann Gottfreid Galle, soon discovered the planet, Neptune.
Work to find this new planet was a
collaborative effort. It began with
Herschel’s work, then continued with a Mathematician, who calculated where this
new planet might be, and ended with Johann Gottfried Galle discovering the
planet, Neptune, on September 25, 1846.
“Neptune was the first planet to be predicted by first applying previous
knowledge, and then confirming it through observation” (“Accounting for Anomaly: The Discovery of
Mathematicians and Scientists both worked
at figuring out where this undiscovered planet, that could affect the orbit of
Uranus, might be. They behaved scientifically by sharing their data and reading
the work that had already been done.