March 26, 1859

On March 26, 1859, amateur French astronomer, Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, discovered the planet Vulcan, which was believed to orbit inside the orbit of Mercury, which until that point in time was believed to be the closest planet to the Sun. Mercury had a little wobble in its orbit that under Newtonian rules of planetary understanding, said that a planet or other large object had to be there to cause that wobble. This was how French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier discovered Neptune a few years earlier. He noticed a wobble in Uranus’s orbit (not my anus, your anus), and deduced under Newtonian rules that a planet had to cause it, and sure enough, just around the bend from Uranus, there was Neptune, lurking. On March 26, 1859, Lescarbault thought he had finally spotted the elusive planet. Le Verrier excitedly hurried to his farm and verified that he also saw it. But no one else could scientifically verify their discovery. For fifty years, people looked for Vulcan with better and better telescopes, and never quite found verifiable evidence of this elusive vagabond. Jump to Einstein and his theory of relativity in 1915 and his discovery that space-time is really knobbly-wobbly and curves. His calculations proved that Mercury’s wobble was either caused by the actual curve in space-time or the fact that Mercury was day-drunk most of the time. Einstein actually killed a planet. Neil deGrasse Tyson only demoted one.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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