Andrew J. Bevan, QHP, DMS Astrol. (c) 1989

The discovery of Pluto

Pluto was discovered by Clyde William Tombaugh of the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, on Feb. 18th, 1930. The founder of the observatory, Percival Lowell, is most often credited with the discovery. The discovery of Pluto was the result of a systematic search instituted by Lowell himself in 1915. Lowell, however, died at Flagstaff on Nov. 12th, 1916 at the age of 61 years old, and did not live to the existence of the planet be confirmed. Lowell reasoned that disturbances in the motion of Uranus could not alone be explained by the perturbation from Neptune, thus suggesting the existence of a trans-neptunian planet. Clyde Tombaugh made the discovery when systematically comparing photographs taken on Jan. 23 and 29th, 1930. The new object was found close up to the position predicted by Lowell.

I have not seen any record for the time when Tombaugh made the discovery, but have cast a chart for 15.45 hrs local time Flagstaff. This has been done only after much serious consideration. The chart shows Scorpio on the lower meridian, reflecting the sign to which Pluto was appointed co-rulership. Some astrologers are of the opinion that Pluto is exalted in Leo, to which I observe that this chart has Leo in the ascendant. Mercury and Mars have recently opposed the ascendant, maybe suggesting how the two pictures were compared against each other. The same configuration is found on the IC in the discovery chart of Neptune, where d'Arrest suggested the use of a map to compare against the stars.

The Moons North Node on the Midheaven connects a group of collective import to the discovery. The fixed star Hamal is culminating at 6TA41. Hamal is the leading star in the head of Aries and was originally the Arabic name for the entire of this constellation. It symbolises continuous dangers to the material plane. Ebertin-Hoffman have produced an excellent book on the meaning of fixed stars. Unfortunately, when it comes to Hamal they appear to mix it up, calling it El-Nath. El-Nath is correctly situated in the Bull's North Horn and its position is in the 22nd degree of Gemini.

Apart from the presence of Mars on an angle, which demonstrated the strong martial qualities possessed by Pluto, the fixed star Sertan is exactly rising on the ascendant. Sertan is the main star in "The Scissors of the Crab", an association to Pluto that speaks for itself.

Percival Lowell had a brilliant family background and was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 13th, 1855. The years for 1883 to 1893, Lowell travelled and released several books on foreign cultures. But by 1894 he had decided to devote his fortune to the study of the planets and founded the Lowell Observatory. The observatory is located 2200 metres above sea level, minimizing atmospheric disturbance. Lowell became well known for his observations of the planet Mars. He believed that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings and that the so-called canal" on the planet's surface were constructed to keep the inhabitants with water. Many objected to his theories, but he received a number of scientific honours. From 1902 he was professor of the Massachusetts Inst. of Technology. Clyde W. Tombaugh was born in 1906 and was an assistant at the Lowell observatory when he discovered Pluto. The announcement of the new discovery was made on Lowell's birthday, March 13th, 1930.

The name Pluto was suggested by 11-year old Venetia Burney, Oxford, England. Venetia had learnt about the old Greek and Latin mythologies at school, and also knew about the relative distances of the planets. She chose the name Pluto for a dark and gloomy planet. Her grandfather, F. Madan, sent the suggestion to H.H.Turner, professor of astronomy at Oxford. F.Madan was a younger brother of Henry Madan who had suggested the names of Deimos and Phobos for two of Mars' dwarf satellites. Hence, again we find the Martian connection! Professor H.H.Turner sent in turn a telegraph to V.M.Slipher, director at the Lowell Observatory. The authorities agreed that "Pluto" was excellent. As a fitting symbol Slipher suggested that it be built up of the letters "P" and "L", the initials of Percival Lowell and the first two letters in Pluto.

The planet Pluto has a very eccentric orbit. From Dec.11th, 1978 and through to March 14th, 1999 it came close the Sun than Neptune. Pluto reached its perihelion position in 13 degrees of Scorpio in 1989. In 1980 scientists discovered that Pluto wasn't nearly as large as they though it was. Pluto was, in fact, barely larger than our own Moon. On April 6th, 1980 they found that the planet in reality is a binary system consisting of two bodies with a mutual gravity centre. The major body of Pluto has a partner of about half its size that has been called Charon. In mythology Charon is the boatman who conveyed the shades of the dead across the rivers of the lower regions.


Additional note on Pluto :

The chart above is calculated for when Tombaugh sighted the planet on Feb. 18th, 1930 - however, as made clear the two photoplates that lead to the discovery of the planet were taken nights of Jan 23 and 29. On the night leading to Jan.23, Mercury was retrograde - meaning that the moment registers but the scientist does not. The Moon was in Scorpio. Then when Tombaugh discovered the planet on Feb. 18th the Moon had once again returned to the sign of Scorpio and Mercury had turned direct.

When Pluto was photographed for the first time, the mind was turned inward and facts did not show outwards. While the correct discovery chart is calculated for Feb.18th, several of the planetary positions found on Jan.23rd are vital (i.e. Venus) for disclosing the sequence that is found among the outer planets time of discovery. These finding are apt to be loaded up onto the website under the title "Searching for the next outer planet".

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