The history of the discovery of Pluto
In the 1840s, with the help of Newtonian mechanics, Urbain Le Verrier predicted the position of the then undetected planet Neptune based on an analysis of perturbations of the orbit of Uranus. Subsequent observations of Neptune at the end of the 19th century led astronomers to suggest that, in addition to Neptune, another planet also has an impact on the orbit of Uranus. In 1906, Percival Lowell, a wealthy resident of Boston who founded the Lowell Observatory in 1894, initiated an extensive project to find the ninth planet in the solar system, which he named Planet X. By 1909, Lowell and William Henry Pickering had suggested several possible celestial coordinates for this planet. Lowell and his observatory continued to search for the planet until his death in 1916, but to no avail. In fact, on March 19, 1915, two low-level images of Pluto were obtained at his observatory without Lowell’s knowledge, but he was not recognized on them.
Mount Wilson Observatory could also claim the discovery of Pluto in 1919. That year, Milton Humason, on behalf of William Pickering, searched for the ninth planet, and Pluto’s image fell on a photographic plate. However, the image of Pluto in one of the two pictures coincided with a small marriage of the emulsion (it even seemed to be part of it), and on the other plate the image of the planet partially overlapped the star. Even in 1930, the image of Pluto in these archival photographs was able to identify with considerable difficulty.
Due to a ten-year lawsuit with Constance Lowell, the widow of Percival Lowell, who was trying to get a million dollars from the observatory as part of his legacy, the search for planet X did not resume. It was only in 1929 that the director of the observatory, Vesto Melvin Slyfer, without much thought instructed Clyde Tombo to continue his search, a 23-year-old Kansas man who had just been admitted to the observatory after he was impressed by his astronomical drawings.
Tombo’s task was to systematically obtain images of the night sky in the form of paired photographs with an interval of two weeks between them, followed by comparing the pairs to find objects that changed their position. For comparison, a blink comparator was used, which allows you to quickly switch the display of two records, which creates the illusion of movement for any object that has changed position or visibility between photos. February 18, 1930, after almost a year of work, Tombo discovered a possibly moving object in the images from January 23 and 29. A lower-quality photograph of January 21 confirmed the movement. On March 13, 1930, after the observatory received other supporting photographs, the news of the discovery was cabled to Harvard College Observatory.
Venice Burney The right to name the new celestial body belonged to the Lowell Observatory. Tombo advised Slifer to do this as soon as possible, before they got ahead. Variants of the name began to come from all over the world. Constance Lowell, Lowell’s widow, first proposed Zeus, then her husband’s name Percival, and then her own name. All such offers were ignored.
The name “Pluto” was first proposed by Venice Burney, an eleven-year-old schoolgirl from Oxford. Venice was interested not only in astronomy, but also in classical mythology, and decided that this name – an ancient Roman version of the name of the Greek god of the underworld – is suitable for such a probably dark and cold world. She suggested the name in a conversation with her grandfather Falconer Maidan, who worked at the Bodley Library at Oxford University – Maidan read about the discovery of the planet in The Times and told her granddaughter about it at breakfast. He handed over her proposal to Professor Herbert Turner, who had cabled his colleagues in the United States.
Officially, the object received the name on March 24, 1930. Each member of the Lowell Observatory could vote on a short list of three items: “Minerva” (although one of the asteroids was already named), “Kronos” (this name turned out to be unpopular, being proposed by Thomas Jefferson Jackson Sea – an astronomer with a bad reputation) and “ Pluto”. Pluto received all the votes. The name was published on May 1, 1930. Folkoner Maidan then handed Venice £ 5 as a reward.
The astronomical symbol of Pluto is a monogram of the letters P and L, which are also the initials of P. Lowell. The astrological symbol of Pluto resembles the symbol of Neptune, with the difference that in place of the middle tooth in the trident is a circle.
In Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, the name of Pluto is translated as the Star of the Underground King – this option was proposed in 1930 by Japanese astronomer Hoei Nojiri. Many other languages use the transliteration “Pluto” (in Russian – “Pluto”); however, in some Indian languages, the name of the god Yama (for example, Yamdev in Gujarati), the guardian of hell in Buddhism and in Hindu mythology, can be used.