Vladimir Pecha‘s Today’s Memory
Galileo Galilei’s discovery of the planet Neptune
Originally shared by Vladimir Pecha
The night from 27. to 28. December 1612 – Galileo observed Neptune, but did not recognize it as a planet. Galileo’s drawings show that he first observed Neptune on December 28, 1612, and again on January 27, 1613. On both occasions, Galileo mistook Neptune for a fixed star when it appeared very close—in conjunction—to Jupiter in the night sky; hence, he is not credited with Neptune’s discovery.
(The official discovery is usually cited as September 23, 1846, Neptune was discovered within 1° of where Le Verrier had predicted it to be.) During the period of his first observation in December 1612, Neptune was stationary in the sky because it had just turned retrograde that very day. This apparent backward motion is created when the orbit of the Earth takes it past an outer planet. Since Neptune was only beginning its yearly retrograde cycle, the motion of the planet was far too slight to be detected with Galileo’s small telescope.