astronomy class, 1882

I bet you thought I had forgotten about the Cyclopedia. Which only goes to show how silly you are.

I’m learning about astronomy now.

Did you know that back in 1882, scientists placed the entire number of planets in the solar system at ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN, as opposed to “the six known in 1781, when Sir W. Herschel discovered Uranus”?

Of course, they cheated. They counted asteroids as planets. EVERYONE knows you can’t do THAT.

Only a few of these extra planets were worthy of special mention in the Cyclopedia, however. Namely, Vesta, Ceres, Pallas, and Juno, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.


“Though the smallest of the planets, it gives a very brilliant light, insomuch that it can be seen with the naked eye.”

Juno‘s orbit

“is the most eccentric of all the planetary orbits, being 253,000,000 of miles from the sun at the greatest, and only 126,000,000, or less than one-half, at the least distance.

Scientists apparently couldn’t agree on what size Ceres was.

“Ceres has been variously represented as of 1,624 and 160 miles in diameter. The astronomer who calculated its diameter at 1.624 miles, at the same time believed himself to have ascertained that it has a dense atmosphere, extending 675 miles from its surface.”


“However unimportant it may appear beside the large planets, it has a peculiar interest in the eyes of astronomers, on account of its orbit having a greater inclination to the plane of the ecliptic than those of all the larger planets put together.”

Also, in case you didn’t know:

Comets are light, vapory bodies, which move around the sun in orbits much less circular than those of the planets…. The body appears as a thin vapory, luminous mass, of globular form; it is so thin, that, in some cases, the stars have been seen through it.”

All quotes from Collier’s Cyclopedia of Social and Commercial Information, 1882


5 thoughts on “astronomy class, 1882

  1. Interesting… They declined to use two PERFECTLY good words: Aphelion and Perihelion. Maybe they thought people wouldn’t understand them. πŸ™‚

  2. Does it mention that Pluto has been demoted, and is no longer counted among the planets? Ah, fame is fleeting – just as St. Christopher is no longer a saint.

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