Current Science

Hoover's Little Planet

Austrian Astronomers Discovered "Hooveria" in 1920


Herbert Hoover

The planetoids revolve around the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.


For untold ages a certain little planet has been circling around the sun, passing over our heads by day or by night, but unseen by human eyes. A powerful telescope, backed by a photo- graphic plate of supreme sensitiveness, discovered this tiny world in March of 1920. Prof. Johann Palisan, of the University of Vienna, Austria, interpreted the photographs printed from the negative, and proclaimed the existence of the worldlet. Acting upon a privilege of long standing -- that a discoverer may name his find. This astronomer, with the full consent of the Senate of his University, christened the mass of matter out in space for a man then highly praised for his efficient work in feeding hungry peoples made destitute by the planet Earth's most terrible war. This man was Herbert Hoover, now -- as of course you know -- our President. "Hooveria" still swings through space; it must have a benign influence over the fortunes of the man whose name it bears, for he has indeed reached high position and responsibility.

The "Pocket Planets"

What is this little world -- Hooveria ? There are eight great planets, children of our sun. They swing in orbits of ever- increasing distance from their source of heat and light. Between the fourth and the fifth planet -- measuring outward -- there is a great gap - an immense lane where even the - astronomers of olden times believed there should be another rolling planet. This apparently unused highway of the sky, between Mars and Jupiter, is over 300 million miles wide. 'The Italian astronomer, Giuseppe Piazzi, at Palermo, was the first to locate & traveler upon this highway. A faint light, apparently a star, which he ob- served one night had moved the next. For six weeks he followed it across the heavens; sickness intervened, and when he returned to his telescope after several months the shining spot was lost. A great mathematician of Germany, Karl Gauss, made computations as to the spot where the object was supposed to be, and it was found! This was the first instance of finding a lost world! All this happened in the year 1801. Piazzi named" his new planet Ceres after the favorite goddess of his native island, Sicily. Before long other astronomers discovered Pallas, Juno, and Vesca. Forty years passed ere Astrae, Hebe, Iris, and Flora were added to the list. Since 1847 not a year has passed without new discoveries of tiny worlds within this path. Hooveria is well past the thousandth of them. These small bodies are called planetoids (Greek for "planet-like") or asteroids (Greek, "star-like"). The latter name is not good, for they are in no sense stars. Ceres is the largest, 477 miles in diameter. Most of them, however, are not more than 20 miles through. Hooveria's size has not been computed. They do not move in a cluster, but travel once around the sun in periods ranging from two to thirteen years.

An Exploded Planet?

At first it was thought that a planet had exploded, and the planetoids were the debris of the ruptured world. It is now believed that the planet never existed in that particular path. The huge bulk of Jupiter -- 1,300 times larger, and 318 times heavier than our Earth -- may have prevented, by the pull of its gravitation, the orderly gathering of the material in the planetoids into a single ball with perhaps a moon or two. Here's to Hooveria -- first planet to honor a President!

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