William Herschel noticed a fuzzy object in the sky. He considered whether it was a star, a comet,
or a planet. After increasing the
strength of his telescope, the object became larger and sharper, leading
Herschel to believe it was a planet. (Williams,
Clough, Stanley, & Kerton, n.d.). The discovery of the suspected planet,
Uranus, was confirmed in 1781. Before
long, astronomers all over the world wondered if there were other planets to be
discovered. Astronomers soon discovered
that the orbit of Uranus was not like the orbits of other planets; it wobbled.
This knowledge led to theories of why,
and, one of those theories postulated that another planet was nearby.
Years later, Urbain Le Verrier, a
French Mathematician, tried to convince his fellow countrymen to search for a
planet that appeared as a “fuzzy dot against a background of thousands of
brighter stars” (Williams et al, n.d.).
Le Verrier had used mathematical calculations to predict where this
planet might be located. He sent this
information to a pair of German astronomers who worked at the Berlin
Observatory, who in turn commenced a search for this suspected, undiscovered planet.
The German astronomer, Johann Gottfried
Galle, soon discovered the planet, Neptune.
Work to find this new planet took the
efforts of many people. It began with
Herschel’s work, then continued with the mathematician, Urbain Le Verrier, who
calculated where this new planet might be, and ended with Johann Gottfried
Galle discovering the planet, Neptune, on September 25, 1846. “Neptune was the first planet to be predicted
by first applying previous knowledge, and then confirming it through
observation” (Williams et al, n.d.).
Herschel had behaved scientifically by
focusing on the natural world and inspiring others to ongoing research. To find a previously undiscovered planet that
could affect the orbit of Uranus, mathematicians and astronomers worked
together. These men behaved scientifically by sharing their data, utilizing research
that had already been done, and using testable ideas. The result was the discovery of the planet,