Astronomers Say 'Planet' Pluto May Be Satellite From Neptune
Doubt Lowell Theory
Evidence introduced at the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society here has cast doubt on conclusions drawn in 1914 by Percival Lowell '76 which later led to the discovery of the planet Pluto.
At that time, the distinguished University astronomer predicted a trans-Neptunian planet from perturbations he had noted in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus. Working from Lowell's reckonings, Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930 discovered Pluto.
However, a theory recently proposed by Gerard P. Kuiper of the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago, and strongly supported at last week's meeting by Eugene R. Rabe of the Cincinnati Observatory, indicates that Pluto may be actually only a runaway satellite of the neighboring planet Neptune.
Robe, a prominent celestial mathematician, noted that Pluto rides on orbit that fits the orbit a runaway planet would take.
He explained that the planets, in the course of their history, have gradually lost some mass. The loss has resulted in reduction of gravitational pull, which in turn may have permitted a moon to get lost, he added.
Mrs. Cecilia H. Payne-Gaposhkin, chairman of the Astronomy Department, commented yesterday that direction and the shapes of the orbits of Neptune's satellites indicate that they have had an "exciting adventure." She termed Kuiper's theory "plausible, but not certain by any means."