The Moon that Wasn't: The Saga of Venus' Spurious Satellite

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Springer Science & Business Media, Nov 6, 2008 - Science - 199 pages
The planet Venus is the closest neighbour to the Earth and in several respects similar to our globe. It revolves around the Sun at an average distance of 0. 72 astronomical units, in an elliptical orbit of eccentricity 0. 007. The corresponding 3 numbers for the Earth are 1 and 0. 017. The mean density of Venus is 5. 2 g/cm , 3 that of the Earth 5. 5 g/cm . Venus’ acceleration of gravity at its equator is 8. 9 2 2 m/s , compared with 9. 8 m/s at the Earth. The escape velocity is 10. 4 km/s, while the corresponding ?gure of the Earth is 11. 2 km/s. Although the mass of Venus is somewhat smaller than that of the Earth – the ratio is M /M =0. 815 V E – the diameters of the two planets are almost the same. In other words, Venus is indeed a sister planet of the Earth. In earlier times, when almost nothing was known about the physical con- tions of Venus, the similarity appeared even stronger than today. Not only was Venus’ period of rotation thought to be close to that of the Earth, it was also p- sible (and indeed common) to imagine intelligent life on Venus.
 

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Helge Kragh provides an instructive story of science at its humbling, bumbling worst. Kragh's thoughtful story-telling steps through astronomy as it really is, and was, a mix of careful observation, hidden ambition, and the scientific communities' power of professional reputations over fact. This reminded me once more that many a 'great man of science' is more simply a man to which men of science ascribe greatness. If you are to read science history books, be sure to include this one. 

Contents

A moon or not? A century of confusion
7
22 Jean Dominique Cassini
19
23 The satellites of Mars
24
24 James Short and his Contemporaries
29
From climax to anticlimax
38
31 The 1761 Venus transit
44
32 Observations and nonobservations
56
33 The Danish Connection
59
52 Worthy of attention
102
53 The Venus moon reconsidered
109
Closure the discussion of the 1880s
116
61 The planet Neith
119
62 Stroobants solution
128
63 The second moon of the Earth
133
64 Twentiethcentury postscripts
139
Conclusion and a note on the satellites of Uranus
145

34 The Venus moon and enlightenment culture
68
Contemporary analysis and criticism
77
42 Ghost images?
80
43 Lamberts orbital elements
87
A spurious but persistent satellite
95
Biographical sketches
155
Bibliography
167
Index
192
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