So what’s big, rocky, round and sits between Mars and Jupiter? If you’re scratching your head right now, don’t worry. Your 7th grade science teacher didn’t teach you about it because it wasn’t deemed worthy, but there is something out there.
On January 1, 1801, the Mathematician, Astronomer, and Catholic priest of the Theatine order, Father Giuseppe Piazzi, made a startling discovery. An object first thought to be a star (one of 7,646 that he cataloged in his career) was observed moving against a field of its fixed cosmic kin. To verify his findings Piazzi spent 3 more days making observations. What had he found? Well according to him it must have been a comet – a large ball of dust and ice, traveling through the solar system like a cosmic drifter. Only that’s what he felt comfortable telling the public. His instincts told a different story, as we can tell from a letter sent to his friend, Barnaba Oriani: