Vulcan: The Ninth Planet That Never Existed
Vulcan was a hypothetical planet located between Mercury and the Sun, which, although many recognized astronomers claimed it existed, was never seen by any telescope.
What happened to this planet, and why was it never found?
Let’s find out!
Mercury is one of the closest planets to Earth, and records indicate that humanity has known its existence for hundreds of years. Still, during the eighteenth century, there was a problem with Mercury’s orbit that astronomers could not explain.
To better understand this, you should know that the planets have several movements around the sun; the two best known are translation, the movement they make around the sun, and rotation, which they rotate on themselves.
But there are other movements, one of them is the precession of perihelion; this movement has to do with the planet’s orbit. The planets revolve around the sun, forming an ellipse where one of the foci of that ellipse is the sun, but the other focus is not static but rotates slowly until it gives a complete turn to the sun.
This movement is present in all the planets, but in Mercury, it is much more noticeable, and this is where the problem was; since using physics and Newton’s laws known until then, the observations indicated that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury was much greater than that obtained by making calculations.
This is where the French mathematician Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier makes his appearance.
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