Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Planet X

During a recent trip to the southwest U.S. we stopped one evening at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. We lined up with 50 or so other tourists to take a peek through the 101 year-old Alvan Clark Telescope telescope, pictured in this black and white photo above. On view was the planet Saturn, and though small, its rings were visible. The telescope and building housing it were a big hit with mom and dad but the kids were more impressed with the gift shop and nearby museum with its interactive displays of the wonders of the universe.
The postcard above shows Percival Lowell viewing the planet Venus through the 24-inch Alvan Clark Telescope. Lowell is best known for his Planet X theory. He conjectured that the irregular orbits on Neptune and Uranus were caused by the gravitational pull of an as yet undiscovered planet. Though he searched in vain for eleven years, his theory proved correct fourteen years after his death when Clyde Tombaugh, a young astronomer at the observatory discovered Pluto.