Astronomer William Herschel noticed
a hazy 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. They 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 was a cooperative
effort. 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,
Williams, B., Clough, M. P., Stanley,
M., & Kerton, Charles. (n.d.). Accounting for
The Discovery of Neptune. Retrieved
January 17, 2018, from