Yesterday, I gave a presentation on how to use the minor planets in your work. I used this chronology of planetary discoveries as a basis for the class. Here is the chronology used as the basic structure for the class.
Planetary Discovery Chronology
Dec. 28, 1612 – Galileo makes first sighting of Neptune, while stationing retrograde, in conjunction to Jupiter, in Virgo.
This is during the incredible winter of 1612-1613, when he discovers the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus and individual stars in the Milky Way. He is not credited with the discovery of Neptune because it’s presumed he mistook it for a fixed star.
However, later research indicates that he may have been aware it was a planet. Neptune appears and disappears many times from the perception of astronomers during the next two and a half centuries.
1781, official discovery of Uranus, the first modern planet. This is credited to Sir William Herschel, a Brit; as with many discoveries, I am aware there is a debate, but Sir William is the one we remember. The earliest recorded prediscovery sighting was in 1690, when John Flamsteed observed the planet at least six times, cataloging it as 34 Tauri (thinking it was a star). The French astronomer, Pierre Lemonnier, observed Uranus at least twelve times between 1750 and 1769, including on four consecutive nights. I guess it’s hard to know what a new planet is when nobody has ever discovered one before.
(Minor planets 1-4) Discovery of Ceres, Juno, Pallas and Vesta 1801-07 – re-emergence of the feminine; birth of the minor planets (then called asteroids). True fact: Ceres, discovered on Jan. 1, 1801 was the second planet discovered orbiting our Sun, besides those obviously visible. Most astrologers unto the present day pretend it does not exist, or that it doesn’t quite mean anything. It is currently classified not as an asteroid but as a dwarf planet. I have a question. Vesta, though small, is the brightest asteroid. One can supposedly see it with the bare eye. So why wasn’t it discovered in the days of much darker night skies, when people had less to do, and were constantly looking at the sky for entertainment?
(5) Astraea, 1845, the fifth asteroid, is discovered after a 38 year gap; predicts the discovery of Neptune the following year. Astraea is named for the goddess of justice — the one you see in Libra and the Justice/Adjustment tarot card.
Official discovery of Neptune, 1846. Neptune is the 7th object discovered orbiting our Sun.
Pluto is discovered in 1930, in Flagstaff; first Kuiper object, though this was unknown at the time. Pluto initially said to be a planet, and in 2006 was designated to be a minor planet (of the dwarf planet group) and given a minor planet catalog number (134340). First book about Pluto was in German, by Fritz Brunhubner in the 1930s. Never translated into English; God only knows what it says. [Correction: Rob Hand tells me he has a copy in English, published by AFA press. He said that the book is pretty much bang-on what we think about Pluto today, despite being written in the years immediately after the discovery. I am working on acquiring a copy.] The existence of the Kuiper Belt is not confirmed until 1992, with the discovery of 1992 QB1.
(2060) Chiron 1977 (earliest precovery [pre-discovery] photograph showing Chiron in the night sky is 1895), first centaur planet – begins reunion of astrology and astronomy. It is discovered by Charles Kowal, who says: “this thing is a maverick,” giving Chiron its first astrological keyword. Zane Stein, who wrote the first book about Chiron, got his ephemeris from Brian Marsden, then the director of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard.
Charon, discovered in 1978 in Flagstaff, is technically the second Kuiper object but not recognized as such because it’s considered a “moon” of Pluto. In reality it’s a binary object orbiting with Pluto; the barycenter is outside either object. Isabel Hickey writes [probably the first] monograph in English on Pluto and Minerva, predicting that Pluto had a binary nature. From my research, my current understanding is that her monograph came out shortly before the discovery of Charon.
c. 1985 – First English-language book on Pluto is published, Pluto: The Evolutionary Journey of the Soul by Jeff Green. The book is inspired by a visitation to Jeff by the guru/yogi Yogananda (out of body), who guided Jeff’s work as an astrologer for several years. The book in my view was one of the most influential astrology texts of the 20th century, bringing Vedic ideas such as reincarnation into modern astrological discourse.
Two huge discoveries in 1992, making it a watershed year: (5145) Pholus, the second Centaur & (15760) 1992 QB1 1992, the second Kuiper object (if you don’t count Charon, Pluto’s binary). This is the confirmation of Kuiper belt. Pholus leads to the official designation of the Centaur class of planets.
1992 QB1 was discovered on the Aries Point, that is, in the first degree of Aries or the sidereal vernal point (SVP). It is still not named; the name Smiley was proposed, but this was already taken by an asteroid. A whole sub-class of minor planets has been named after it, the Cubewanos (Q-B-1-ohs). I believe QB1 will retain its provisional designation as its name for this reason, though I have contacted Jane X. Luu, the co-discoverer, and proposed the name Radharani, beloved consort of Lord Krishna. (Thank you to Robert von Heeren of Munich for giving me a 1992 QB1 ephemeris in the summer of 1998.)
(20,000) Varuna is discovered in 2000, a trans-Neptunian object (TNO). Given an honorific catalog number; for its day, it was an important discovery and is an amazing minor planet, named for the pre-Vedic supreme lord of creation. Discovered by Robert S. McMillan of SpaceWatch team. The job of SpaceWatch team is to spot bits and bobs that might hit the Earth. There have been quite a few discoveries thanks to the ongoing efforts of these wonks.
(50,000) Quaoar in 2002, a trans-Neptunian object (TNO). Given honorific catalog number. Lead discoverer is Chad Trujillo, a member of Mike Brown’s discovery team, whom Mike credits with the discovery. Also an amazing minor planet.
(90377) Sedna in 2003, a scattered disk object (a region beyond the Kuiper Belt) with an orbit of just over 12,000 years. Discovered by Michael E. Brown, Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz.
(136199) Eris, 2003-2005, named 2006 after provisionally being called Xena. Eris causes the reorganization of the solar system’s categories and forces astronomers to define the word “planet” for the first time. Discovered by Brown, Trujillo and Rabinowitz.
As of this writing, there are 231,665 numbered minor planets orbiting our Sun, and many more unnumbered (that is, with only provisional designations). Numbered means the the orbit is confirmed by repeated sightings, and the planet is ready for naming.