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ASTEROIDS Giuseppe Piazzi at Palermo Italy discovered the first asteroid on Jan 1 1801 At first Piazzi thought that he had discovered a comet however after the orbital elements of the object had been computed it became clear that the object moved in a planet-like orbit between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter Piazzi was able to observe the object only until February 11 and as no one else was aware of its existence it was not re-observed before it moved into the daytime sky The short arc of observations did not allow computation of an orbit of sufficient accuracy to predict where the object would reappear when it moved back into the night sky and so it was lost There matters might have stood were it not for the fact that this object was located at the heliocentric distance predicted by Bodes law of planetary distances proposed in 1766 by the German astronomer Johann D Titius and popularized by his compatriot Johann E Bode who used the scheme to advance the notion of a missing planet between Mars and Jupiter The discovery of Uranus in 1781 by the British astronomer William Herschel at a distance that closely fit the distance predicted by Bodes law was taken as strong evidence of its correctness Some astronomers were so convinced that during an astronomical conference in 1796 they agreed to undertake a systematic search Ironically Piazzi was not a party to this attempt to locate the missing planet Nonetheless Bode and others on the basis of the preliminary orbit believed that Piazzi had found and then lost it This led the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss to develop in 1801 a method for computing the orbit of an asteroid from only a few observations a technique that has not been significantly improved since Using Gausss predictions the German astronomer Franz von Zach rediscovered Ceres on Jan 1 1802 Piazzi named this object Ceres after the ancient
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