Aug 21, 2010

Neptune to Complete Its First Orbit Since Discovery in 1846

In 1821, French astronomer Alexis Bouvard reasoned that the eccentricities in the orbit of Uranus might be caused by the gravitational pull of a nearby planet. 45 years later, that planet, Neptune, was directly observed for the first time. Because it takes 146 years for Neptune to complete one orbit of the Sun, its orbit has until now not been fully observed.

Uranus, a planet discovered by Herschel in 1781 — approximately 10 AU closer to the sun than Neptune — completed its first orbit after discovery in the year 1865 (it completes one orbit of the sun every 84 years). And Pluto, the newly designated dwarf planet discovered by U.S. astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 — approximately 10 AU further away from the sun than Neptune — won’t complete its first orbit for another 168 years. We’ll have to wait until 2178 to see Pluto complete its first 248 year orbit around the sun.

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