Some of the earliest recorded observations ever made through a telescope, Galileo’s drawings on 28 December 1612 and 27 January 1613, contain plotted points that match up with what is now known to be the position of Neptune. On both occasions, Galileo seems to have mistaken Neptune for a fixed star when it appeared close—in conjunction—to Jupiter in the night sky; hence, he is not credited with Neptune’s discovery.
At his first observation in December 1612, Neptune was almost stationary in the sky because it had just turned retrograde that day. This apparent backward motion is created when Earth’s orbit takes it past an outer planet. Because 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. In July 2009, University of Melbourne physicist David Jamieson announced new evidence suggesting that Galileo was at least aware that the ‘star’ he had observed had moved relative to the fixed stars.
Categories: Origin Of Things