Giuseppe Piazzi: the controversial discovery and loss of Ceres in 1801

Cunningham, Clifford J., Marsden, Brian G., and Orchiston, Wayne (2011) Giuseppe Piazzi: the controversial discovery and loss of Ceres in 1801. Journal for the History of Astronomy, 42 (3). pp. 283-306.

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[Extract] Theatricality was hardly the forte of Giuseppe Piazzi (1746–1826), but the Italian monk and Director of Palermo Observatory could hardly have set the stage for a better drama. Just as the nineteenth century began, he discovered the eighth planet of the solar system. He named it Ceres Ferdinandea.

On that night of 1 January 1801, Piazzi was engrossed in updating a star catalogue by Francis Wollaston (see Section 2.1.2) which was replete with inaccuracies. The catalogue had to be checked star by star, a task Piazzi was performing with a 1.5-metre vertical circle to determine star positions. For any particular star, Piazzi could observe it for only two minutes a night as it passed the meridian. At 8:43 pm local mean time, he saw a 'star' in Taurus that was not in the catalogue.

Item ID: 18522
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1753-8556
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Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2011 06:05
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