Giuseppe Piazzi and the Discovery of Ceres

Fr. Giuseppe Piazzi
Fr. Giuseppe Piazzi
  • Article (book chapter)
  • 8 pages
  • Level: university

The first asteroid was discovered by Fr. Giuseppe Piazza, who gave it the name Ceres.  Fr. Piazzi believed that in fact he had discovered a planet, but was hesitant to say so directly, and often referred to Ceres as a “comet”.  Today Ceres is classified as a “dwarf planet”.  This article on Piazzi is from the book Asteroids III, published in 2002 by the University of Arizona Press and the Lunar and Planetary Institute of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA).  From the chapter abstract:

In this chapter we focus on the circumstances that led Giuseppe Piazzi (1746–1826) to discover the first asteroid, Ceres, on January 1, 1801. Through the examination of published and archival documentation, we shed light on the reaction of the astronomical community at the announcement of the discovery and on Piazzi’s puzzling behavior. In the end, we briefly discuss the discoveries of Pallas, Juno, and Vesta and the theories put forward to explain their nature.

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