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Points of Interest:

Neptune on Earth:

From his records, we know that Galileo actually saw Neptune in his telescope a couple of times, but on both occasions he mistook it for a dim star, so that doesn't count.

The instrument used to discover Neptune was not the telescope but the planet Uranus.

It was Alexis Bouvard, in 1821, who first deduced the existence of Neptune from some irregularities in the orbit of Uranus, just as Uranus had been hinted at by perturbations in the movements of Saturn. Then followed an astronomical race, between John Couch Adams of England and Urbain Le Verrier of France to calculate the exact orbit and position of the new planet. Le Verrier won narrowly, in 1846, when French astronomers found it first, causing a certain amount of nationalistic heartburn among the British.

Le Verrier wanted to name the planet after himself, but that didn't fly any better than William Herschel's attempt to name Uranus "George's Star." "Janus" and "Oceanus" were suggested, but soon the astronomers settled on "Neptune," possibly because of the blue color.

Neptune was explored by Voyager 2 in 1989.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2012