Monday, October 6, 2008

Solar System Mythology

Every night we look at mythology related stuff - the sky! Most things in our solar system has a name that relates it to mythology, so I thought for the next few posts we would tour the solar system (taking a break here and there for those who don't like space).

We'll start with the planet closest to the sun. Mercury right? Wrong! Vulcan.

I know, I know. You're trying to tell me that there is no such planet as Vulcan. Well, in the 1700s, in an attempt to find out why Mercury has a screwed up orbit, one astronomer predicted there would be a planet between Mercury and the sun. Why would anyone listen? This same guy had already successfully predicted Neptune using math alone. So he seemed pretty credible.

Since this planet would be so close to the sun, it would only be seen as it passed in front of the sun (Agggh! Wear protective eye gear!) or during a solar eclipse. Sure enough, when told where to look, some astronomers found what they believed to be a small planet actually crossing between Mercury and the sun. This planet was called Vulcan. Why Vulcan? Well the other planets all had cool mythological names, so they chose the hottest god (he did work in the hot forges all day) for the hottest planet.

Later, however, it was shown by Einstein that the laws of gravity allowed Mercury’s orbit. It was then proven that Vulcan doesn’t exist. *Sniff* And people thought demoting Pluto was bad...

Next - Mercury!

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