Picture of photographic plate, Pluto detected.

First Picture of Pluto – See Through Dreams

We Found It Before Tombaugh! First Picture of Pluto:

Let’s truely tell what this is: First picture of Pluto ever from 1925. This is the story of a failed discovery.

When we create a smart idea or find a new way of doing a thing, we tend to think we are the first one ever. In such cases you feel that way, a wiser method of approach is to hold on for a while. And think you might have forgotten those hundreds of billions of people lived!

In early 1900’s, there were lots of people looking to the sky with similar methods. However they did not have a network like the world has these days.

Before July 2015, Cynthia Hunt from Carnegie Observatories has been working on the old astronomical photographic plates from Carnegie archives. Those archives included thousands of different views from night skies. And one of them was particularly of interest for her. Tracking the footprints, she made sure that this was first picture of of Pluto 5 years before Clyde Tombaugh. And this was never announced publicly!

Picture of photographic plate, Pluto detected.
A photographic plate from 1925. One of the faint light sources is planet Pluto! Source here, Credit: Carnegie Insititution for Science

First Picture of Pluto – What Do We Actually See Here?

What we see here is basically the night sky where Pluto is visible together with other stars. And the astronomers marked some of the objects.

In old times like this, for detecting a rocky planet, satellite or an asteroid; astronomers mostly recorded night sky views of specific coordinates. And they followed up in case there are any objects changing position on different days. Fixed position means a star while varying position means one of above three objects.

So what Cynthia Hunt saw on of the plates was markings on one side and an additional note: Remeasured on 22 May 1931 by UM, which is after planet discovery of Pluto. More fun!

Than she decided to verify if that faint object marked on that plate is Pluto or not. She found a simulation program which simulates the night sky of the desired date for selected position. She got the simulation and compared: Spot on! That was Pluto there!

What is more, she didn’t stop there. She searched for the astronomic publications from archives and she found the article written by Gustaf Stromberg and Nicholas U Mayall in 1931. Now we know what UM means! Even more, she than compared the coordinates on the article with her simulation data and the data on the plates once more. They were matching all the way. That was the first Pluto image in the history!

A Pluto article from 1931
Article published by Stromberg and Mayall in 1931, stating they already observed Pluto! Source here, Credit: Carnegie Insititution for Science

First Picture of Pluto – Is What You See A Real Image?

When we talk about photographic plates, they are what they are! In other words, if you look to a far corner in Solar System via a telescope or camera, this is what you would actually see. And one can easily tell that there’s no significant difference between the image on the photographic plate and what you see when you look to the sky.

All in all, this is a night sky view from December 1925 and includes planet Pluto. That’s a real image of Pluto.

Does This Mean the Discovery Belongs To Someone Else?

So this means, this is the first “known” picture of Pluto for sure. However, for discovering an object, you need to properly verify it by means of math. Clyde Tombaugh did this before Stromberg and Mayall. And he will keep the honor of Pluto discovery for sure!

For all details about this Pluto picture and subject, please see below video:


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