Did the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) make the long sought discovery after its 1983 launch? A 1984 article, Planet X–Is It Really Out There?, confirmed: “Last year, the infrared astronomical satellite (IRAS), circling in a polar orbit 560 miles from the Earth, detected heat from an object about 50 billion miles away that is now the subject of intense speculation.” A reader can be their own judge why this event went without notice?
The art of planet discovery began in 1781 when English astronomer William Herschel found Uranus. Astronomers observed a wobble in the newest planet’s orbit and inferred another body must be exerting a gravitational influence. Finally, in the 1840s, Neptune’s discovery followed those earlier observations. But Neptune was itself affected and led to the belief an even more remote planet must be influencing it. William H. Pickering and Percival Lowell, two American astronomers in the late 19th century, “…predicted the size and approximate location of the trans-Neptunian body, which Lowell called Planet X,” as related in a 1983 New York Times article, “Clues Get Warm in the Search for Planet X,” by John Noble Wilford.
“Recent calculations by the United States Naval Observatory have confirmed the orbital perturbation exhibited by Uranus and Neptune, which Dr. Thomas C. Van Flandern, an astronomer at the observatory, says could be explained by “a single undiscovered planet.” He and a colleague, Dr. Robert Harrington, calculate that the 10th planet should be two to five times more massive than Earth and have a highly elliptical orbit that takes it some 5 billion miles beyond that of Pluto – hardly next-door but still within the gravitational influence of the Sun.”
Planet discovery remains guesswork although much more refined with the aid of computer models. Wilford reported in the same article, “But according to Dr. Ray T. Reynolds of the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, other astronomers ‘are so sure of the 10th planet, they think there’s nothing left but to name it’.” Today, most astronomers dismiss the existence of a tenth planet, or Planet X, as Lowell defined it.
But, the existence of an object 50 billion miles away was reported by newspapers and magazines in the early eighties. It follows a pattern, where early reports can be quickly erased into a black hole of short term memory, if the news makes powerful parties uncomfortable! You have to ask, why was a news event suppressed almost thirty years ago?
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