Little Bits of History

Ceres Found

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 1, 2014
Giuseppe Piazzi

Giuseppe Piazzi

January 1, 1801: Giuseppe Piazzi discovers a small planet in an odd spot. Back in 1772 Johann Elert Bode suggested that the space between Mars and Jupiter could contain a planet. His supposition was based on the Titius-Bode Law, which has been discredited. William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus in 1781 seemed to substantiate the Titius-Bode law. In 1800, a request was sent out to 24 astronomers who began a search for the “missing” planet. Franz Xaver von Zach led the group searching for the wayward planet. Piazzi was not part of their group at the time of the discovery, although an invitation was issued. Piazzi at first thought that Ceres was a comet. After 24 different observations, he became ill. He announced his discovery  on January 24 in two different letters to other astronomers.

Ceres has an equatorial radius of 302.8 miles with an area of 1,100,391 square miles which is about the size of Argentina. The mass of this dwarf planet is 0.0128 Moons or 0.00015 Earths. The mean surface temperature is 168 Kelvin or -157.3° Fahrenheit. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt and the mass has been determined by the way it interacts with other objects in the belt. By examining the surface it has been determined that the interior holds quite a bit of water. The planet’s crust is probably rich in iron clays and carbonate minerals as well. There is a small possibility of it having a tenuous atmosphere.

The asteroid belt lies between Mars and Jupiter and is sometimes called the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroids in the Solar System. About half the mass of the entire belt is contained in the four largest asteroids: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. Ceres is the only one of these large enough to be considered a dwarf planet. The rest of the material in the belt is so thinly scattered that many unmanned objects have been able to traverse the region without incident. Even so, there are sometimes collisions between some of the more substantial asteroids and when this happens, a fine dust is left behind and much of the belt is made of this dust.

As the Solar System was forming from the primordial solar nebula, planetesimals were formed. These are the precursors to planet formation. The area between Mars and Jupiter received enough gravitational disruption from the giant planet, Jupiter, that the protoplanet was unable to form. Collisions were too violent and instead of forming a core of fused together material, the material exploded into dust. Because of this, 99.9% of the asteroid belt’s original mass was lost in the first 100 million years. Some of these fragments have made their way to the inner portion of the Solar System and became meteors with meteorites striking the planets and moons closer to the Sun. Even today, when Jupiter and the Sun form an orbital resonance, there is disruption of the asteroids within the belt.

We need to take command of the solar system to gain that wealth, and to escape the sea of paper our government is becoming, and for some decent chance of stopping a Dinosaur Killer asteroid. – Larry Niven

The chances that your tombstone will read ‘Killed by Asteroid’ are about the same as they’d be for ‘Killed in Airplane Crash.’ – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sooner or later the space program will need to save us by detecting and deflecting an incoming asteroid. – Nathan Myhrvold

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid. – Mark Twain

Also on this day: Julian Calendar – In 45 BC, a new calendar went into effect.
The Times Are a’Changin’ – In 1788, The Times of London was first published.
The Granddaddy of them All – In 1890, the first Tournament of Roses parade was held.
Homestead Act – In 1863, the first claim under the Homestead Act was made.


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