Robert Sutton Harrington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Robert Sutton Harrington (October 21, 1942 – January 23, 1993) was an American astronomer who worked at the United States Naval Observatory (USNO). Harrington was born near Newport News, Virginia. His father was an archaeologist. He was married to Betty-Jean Maycock in 1976, with two daughters, Amy and Ann.[1]

Harrington worked at the USNO. Another astronomer there, James W. Christy, consulted with him after discovering bulges in the images of Pluto, which turned out to be Pluto's satellite Charon.[1] For this reason, some consider Harrington to be a co-discoverer of Charon,[2] although Christy usually gets sole credit. By the laws of physics, it is easy to determine the mass of a binary system based on its orbital period, so Harrington was the first to calculate the mass of the Pluto-Charon system, which was lower than even the lowest previous estimates of Pluto's mass.

Harrington became a believer in the existence of a Planet X beyond Pluto and undertook searches for it, with positive results coming from the IRAS probe in 1983. Harrington collaborated initially with T. C. (Tom) Van Flandern.[1] They were both "courted" by Zecharia Sitchin and his followers who believe in a planet Nibiru or Marduk, who cite the research of Harrington and van Flandern as possible collaborating evidence, though no definitive proof of a 9th planet has surfaced to date.

Harrington died of esophageal cancer in 1993.[1] The asteroid 3216 Harrington was named in his honour.

Harrington's version of Planet X disproved six months before he died[edit]

Six months before Harrington's death, E. Myles Standish had used data from Voyager 2's 1989 flyby of Neptune, which had revised the planet's total mass downward by 0.5%—an amount comparable to the mass of Mars[3]—to recalculate its gravitational effect on Uranus.[4] When Neptune's newly determined mass was used in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Developmental Ephemeris (JPL DE), the supposed discrepancies in the Uranian orbit, and with them the need for a Planet X, vanished.[5] There are no discrepancies in the trajectories of any space probes such as Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1, and Voyager 2 that can be attributed to the gravitational pull of a large undiscovered object in the outer Solar System.[6] Today, most astronomers agree that Planet X, as Lowell defined it, does not exist.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Obituary
  2. ^ http://www.astronomy.com/year-of-pluto/2015/06/an-interview-with-jim-christy-how-defective-images-revealed-the-first-double-planet
  3. ^ Croswell (1997), p. 66.
  4. ^ Myles Standish (1992-07-16). "Planet X – No dynamical evidence in the optical observations". Astronomical Journal 105 (5): 200–2006. Bibcode:1993AJ....105.2000S. doi:10.1086/116575. 
  5. ^ Tom Standage (2000). The Neptune File: A Story of Astronomical Rivalry and the Pioneers of Planet Hunting. New York: Walker. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-8027-1363-6. 
  6. ^ Littmann (1990), p. 204.
  7. ^ Tom Standage (2000). The Neptune File. Penguin. p. 168. ISBN 0-8027-1363-7. 

See also[edit]

Planets beyond Neptune

External links[edit]

Obituaries[edit]