The story of a planet that inspired Star Trek, discovered in Eure-et-Loir. Eurelian Chronicles # 44

Professor, historian, writer, Alain Denizet discovers local anecdotes or stories that are often a reflection of a national history. (© Laurent Rebours)

In Actu Chartres, every Sunday, you will find a Eurelian chronicle of History and tales proposed by Alain Denizet. Professor, historian, writer of Eure-et-Loir, for years he has been collecting all his chronicles in his place.

From the Orgères-en-Beauce observatory, discover Vulcan, a new planet!

Discovery of Neptune by Le Verrier, caricature of Cham, L'Illustration, November 7, 1846.
Discovery of Neptune by Le Verrier, caricature of Cham, L’Illustration, November 7, 1846. (© DR)

An anomaly of the Mercury Revolution?

Prominent scientist, director of the Paris Observatory and discoverer of the planet Neptune [1] in 1846, Urban le Verrier he wondered inside March 1859 on the anomalies of the Mercury revolution around the Sun.

According to him, an unknown planet or a series of asteroids interspersed between the two stars could be the cause of these manifestations.

It’s from an amateur, doctor in Orgères-en-Beauce born in Châteaudun On August 14, 1814, the riddle was resolved.

“Eureka, I found”

Dr. Lescarbault.  Source:
Dr. Lescarbault. Source: (© DR)

Edmond Lescarbaulthe had been passionate about “celestial phenomena” since childhood.

It had been installed on his property an observerequipped with a rotating dome and with his telescope, between two consultations, he scanned the sky.

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the March 26, 1859at 3 hours 59 minutes and 46 seconds – Orgères time – with his eye applied to the eyepiece, he discerned “a small black dot on the disk of the sun, standing out against the bright background and moving in a straight line. .. At 5 years old. hours 16 minutes and 55 seconds, crosses the edge of the sun [2] “.

Volcano, new planet in the solar system!

Postcard of the early twentieth century.  Observatory of Dr. Lescarbault.
Postcard of the early twentieth century. Observatory of Dr. Lescarbault. (© DR)

That is to say, the doctor of Orgères-en-Beauce was the first to observe the transit of a new planet in front of the bright star.

Prudently, he waited until December 22, 1859, to alert Urbain Le Verrier by mail.

In several pages, full of figures and calculations, he explains his method, his observations, his material and his revolutionary conclusion without forgetting to flatter the scientist whose hypothesis he confirms.

I am convinced that this planet is the one whose existence you made known a few months ago by this wonderful power of your calculations which, in 1846, made you recognize the conditions of Neptune’s existence.

Edmond LescarbaultDoctor of Orgères-en-Beauce, amateur astronomer

Sting quickly after receiving a second letter from Lescarbault on the 30th, Le Verrier runs towards Orgères.

The planet Vulcan, the planet closest to the sun.  Source: lit.  of E.  Jones and GW Newman — Library of Congress.
The planet Vulcan, the planet closest to the sun. Source: lit. of E. Jones and GW Newman — Library of Congress.

Early the next morning. He is surprised to discover the improvised means by which the amateur astronomer operates.

Its lens, 10 centimeters wide and 1.5 meters long, equipped with an eyepiece that increases 150 times, rests on a DIY tripod.

As a stopwatch, it has a minute clock and as a pendulum it beats the second, a simple silk thread that supports an ivory ball.

Write down your observations pieces of paper or chalk on fir boards who then plans to make new notes. All this without counting the inconvenience caused by the clients who make him come down from the terrace of his observatory to his office …

According to rumors circulated condescendingly by the Parisian press, the illustrious Le Verrier allegedly harassed the amateur astronomer before inquiring the chaplain and the neighbors about his impeccable reputation.

Lescarbault appointed knight by Le verrier

But three days later, on January 2, 1860, forgetting his prejudices, Le Verrier was in the Academy of Sciences.

Under the spell of the discovery that proves his calculations, praises the obscure doctor of the country:

We find in M. Lescarbault a man devoted for a long time to the study of the sciences, surrounded by devices of all kinds. He gave us detailed explanations of his work … I am fully convinced that the detailed observation he made must be accepted by science.

Urban Le VerrierScientist, director of the Paris Observatory, inventor of Vulcain

Le Verrier even announces the appearance of the newcomer – baptized Vulcan – in March or April 1860 and estimates that its revolution around the sun would be 19 days …

… And rewarded by the Nation and the department

    Dr. Lescarbault became a Knight of the Legion of Honor.  Base Lonore, reference .LH // 1612/33
Dr. Lescarbault became a Knight of the Legion of Honor. Base Lonore, reference .LH // 1612/33 (© DR)

In the process, he obtained the Legion of Honor for Lescarbault on January 25, 1860.

Its discovery is all the more meritorious because, note The Constitutionalshe comes from small town in which this doctor was deprived of this intellectual communion that excites and fertilizes the thought ”.

Thanks to this fan who returns the color to his country, the the departmental council of Eure-et-Loir grants him 1500 francs. Enough to improve the working conditions of this atypical researcher.

However, Lescarbault is disputed.

The jokes joke about a mess with the birds. More seriously, a The century yen The Charivari [3]sad spirits point out that this famous March 26, the passage of Vulcan had escaped from the agents of the Paris Observatory, but otherwise equipped.

Le Verrier rejected the argument in another way, noting that Beauceron’s sky was clear, unlike Paris’s. Elementary.

Volcano, celestial mirage …

The glory of Vulcan.  DC Fontana.  Star Trek, original series, 1989.
The glory of Vulcan. DC Fontana. Star Trek, original series, 1989. (© DR)

Astronomers around the world searched the sky in vain for years.

No one saw Vulcan again until a new false alarm in 1876 of a Swiss scholar [4]. We had to face the facts: the planet Vulcan did not exist.

As for the “anomalies” of Mercury’s motion, they were explained in 1916 by Albert Einstein using the theory of general relativity.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lescarbault was dead, forgotten, and penniless on April 6, 1894 in Orgères-en-Beauce.

Vulcan, however, survived him in works of science fiction such as Volcano Workshop (1932) i In the center of gravity (1936).

The famous Star Trek series used its name, but for a planet outside the solar system. That Dr. Lescarbault’s observatory would have been too modest to detect …

[1] Thanks to his calculations on Neptune’s motion anomalies. It was the German Galle who first observed the new planet.
[2] Excerpt from Lescarbault’s letter to Leverrier in Report of the Academy of Sciences, January 2, 1860, p. 40-45.
[3] The Century, March 2, 1876; le Charivari, May 19, 1860. Chronicle of J. Denizet
[4] The reminder August 31, 1876.

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