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    Vulcan - Hypothetical Solar System Planet

    Monday, July 8, 2019 Last Updated 2019-10-25T11:47:00Z
    Uranus wasn’t the only planet whose observed motions didn’t jive with predictions. Another planet that had that problem was Mercury.

    The discrepancy was first observed by French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier, who noted that the low point in Mercury’s elliptical orbit, called the perihelion, was moving around the Sun faster than his calculations said it should.

    It was a small discrepancy, but additional observations of Mercury convinced him that it was real.

    He suggested that the discrepancy was caused by an undiscovered planet orbiting inside the orbit of Mercury, which he called Vulcan.

    A long series of Vulcan “sightings” followed. Some turned out to be sunspots, but others were made by respectable astronomers and seemed plausible.

    When Le Verrier died in 1877, he believed that Vulcan’s existence had been confirmed.

    However, Einstein’s theory of general relativity was published in 1915, and it could properly predict the movements of Mercury.

    Vulcan was no longer needed, but people continued to look for objects orbiting the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury.

    There’s certainly nothing planet-sized, but there might be some asteroid-sized objects, which have been named “vulcanoids.”


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