Monday, March 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Percival Lowell!

Boston's own Percival Lowell, he of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, was born on this date in 1855.

Among other things, we can thank an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory for discovering Pluto about 76 years ago. Sadly, Lowell himself didn't live to see it, but he was on the right track:
Perhaps his greatest contribution to planetary studies came during the last 13 years of his life, when he devoted much of his time and energy to his quest for "Planet X," a theoretical ninth planet. The search continued after his death in 1916 and led to the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Pluto, in Greek mythology, is the god of the underworld -- a perfect name considering planet Pluto dwells at the outermost reaches of the solar system. The ninth planet's astronomical symbol became PL, the first two initials of the name Pluto, but also Percival Lowell's initials.
You must admit, it would be pretty cool to have a whole planet--not just a star, but a planet--named after you. Way to go, Percy!

(And a tip of the hat to Google for reminding us of today's importance. If you click on today's Google logo, you'll be taken to a quite astounding photo of Mars, the planet that Lowell spent most of his professional life studying.)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home