Plutonic love

One hundred years ago the world was captivated by the idea of the existence of a ninth planet in the composition of the solar system. But today, in the year 75-year-old.

…Pluto, astronomers around the world have for that “little” romantic feelings…

Planet X

The existence of a ninth planet in 1905, predicted the American Percival Lowell, famous for his search for a civilization on Mars. According to the calculations of Lowell, beyond the orbit of Neptune is another large celestial body, having a direct connection with the solar system.

Lowell noticed deviations in the motions of Uranus and Neptune from calculated orbits and decided that this is due to the influence of more distant planets. The object of his hypothesis, Lowell called planet X, but its “real” opening it, alas, did not survive.

The first planet discovered by a young employee Flagstaff Observatory in Arizona, Clyde William Tombaugh. In broad daylight February 18, 1930, comparing Photos of the sky taken with a telescope Observatory named after Lowell, Tombaugh discovered an object that moves in the opposite direction to the motion of the stars. It was Pluto. Tombo found it in the place predicted by Lowell.

The planet was later found on earlier Photographs of the sky. Interestingly,the discovery of Pluto and Neptune actually begins with the discovery of Uranus, which marks the beginning of a new era in astronomy, as Uranus was the first planet that is “opened”, while all others were visible to the naked eye to anyone who looked at the sky. Thus, if observations of Uranus, two of the later opening would be delayed for many years.

Immediately after the opening of the ninth planet was announced a competition for the best name. Of the many proposals – Athena, Hercules, Hera, Prometheus, Chaos, Atlas, and others – was chosen as the name Pluto. So from the darkness of the outskirts of the solar system as if from the bowels of the underworld Roman God, was extracted a new member of our planetary family. In this case the first letters of the names matched the initials of Percival Lowell.

Officially, the name Pluto was first may of the same year. However, it has been more than forty years before astronomers were able to learn more about a distant planet: it was started to be formed only with the development of technology for space research in the mid-seventies. And then began to unfold the mysteries of this unusual celestial body like Pluto.

Pluto and its companion Charon

At first, scientists believed that the size of Pluto is approximately equal to the Earth. But today we know that its diameter is only 2274 kilometers, one and a half times smaller than the diameter of the moon. I must say that the small mass of Pluto is not sufficient to cause deviations of the giant Uranus and Neptune, so many scientists still hope to find a tenth planet.

The complexity of determining the diameter of Pluto were caused by a special circumstance. Prior to 1978, Pluto was considered a “full” planet. But on June 22 of that year Jim Christy of the Naval Observatory in Washington decided to look at pictures of Pluto, made in Flagstaff a month before that. The purpose of the observations was fairly routine to Refine the orbit of this still poorly explored planet.

Then Christie caught my eye: the body of Pluto looks like something strange: it seems to be elongated in one direction. Mountain? But it is impossible even to think about such a gigantic top, which would be noticeable for billions of kilometres, even in the best telescope. Christie decided: satellite!

A colleague of the discoverer R. Harrington started the calculation and came to the same conclusion. When it was discovered that the moon of Pluto rotates with it so that he is constantly “hangs” over one point on the surface of the planet. Meanwhile, earlier Photos Christie has indicated some weak projection, which nobody was able to see. The pioneer was offered for the name of the satellite Charon. So, the carrier of souls across the river Styx into the Kingdom of Pluto has taken its place on the cosmic horizon.

Further observations and calculations led to the determination of the sizes “double planet”, as it is usually called, because the diameter of Charon was only two times smaller than the diameter of Pluto. A sensational discovery Christie gave Pluto a lot of trouble, because finding out the true size of the “boy” threatens to expose him.

Attempted a “double planet”

50 years ago American astronomer Gerard Kuiper predicted that between the orbits of Neptune and Pluto is the asteroid belt, in which the possible existence of small planets like Pluto. The Kuiper belt was actually discovered in the early 1990s, and today has more than 300 small planets.

The opening of the belt turned the idea about the history of the solar system. The asteroid Belt contains brotowasisto, of which formed the Sun and planets. However the belt itself was not a planet and has not since then any changes. Therefore, the study of Pluto and the Kuiper belt is akin to the excavations of Schliemann in Troy is a real space archaeology.

In the “crush” of the asteroid belt, some scientists see Pluto as merely the largest of their fellows, and called upon to deny Pluto planet status. Scientists at the rose Center for the study of Earth and space at new York’s Museum of natural history declare that Pluto, being small in size and composed of ice, has more in common with comets than with the planets. Thus the Museum authorities are reluctant to explain why the diagram of the solar system Pluto is missing.

Oil was added to the fire is the recent discovery in the Kuiper belt new large celestial object named Sidney in honor of the Inuit goddess of the sea. The diameter of Sedna is estimated at 1700 miles, only slightly less than the diameter of Pluto. Many scientists, including Mike brown of the California Institute of technology, who led the team of scientists who discovered Sedna, recognize that there is a planet, it does not hold, and prefer to call it a planetoid, i.e. somewhere between a planet and an asteroid.

However, like other objects found in recent years, and inhabit the Kuiper belt, Sedna is much more typical of an asteroid. It is even believed that the opening of this new celestial body next to Sedna and Pluto seem dwarfs is only a matter of time.

In connection with the discovery of Sedna international astronomical Union intends to review the classification of planets. The working group of the Union will decide whether to count Sedna and similar objects planets. Meanwhile, the scientists will try to determine what the minimum size needs to have a celestial body to be a planet.

“If we start this work, without doubt, Pluto will no longer be a planet, said Professor Iwan Williams. – However, there is already age-old culture, according to which Pluto is a planet. So Union established a working group that will attempt to define the indefinable”.

In 1999, the last time the issue of declassification Pluto was discussed on a serious level, the debate has caused a storm. Apparently, the astronomical community is not ready to accept the loss of planetary status of Pluto…

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