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Giuseppe Piazzi

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Giuseppe Piazzi.
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Giuseppe Piazzi.

Giuseppe Piazzi was an astronomer. He was born in Ponte in Valtellina (Valtellina) on July 7, 1746, and died in Naples on July 22, 1826. He established an observatory at Palermo.

Asteroids discovered: 1
1 Ceres January 1 1801

On January 1, 1801, Piazzi discovered a stellar object that moved against the background of stars. At first he thought it was a fixed star, but once he noticed that it moved, he became convinced it was a planet, or as he called it "a new star".

In his journal, he wrote: "The light was a little faint, and of the colour of Jupiter, but similar to many others which generally are reckoned of the eighth magnitude. Therefore I had no doubt of its being any other than a fixed star. In the evening of the second I repeated my observations, and having found that it did not correspond either in time or in distance from the zenith with the former observation, I began to entertain some doubts of its accuracy. I conceived afterwards a great suspicion that it might be a new star. The evening of the third, my suspicion was converted into certainty, being assured it was not a fixed star. Nevertheless before I made it known, I waited til the evening of the fourth, when I had the satisfaction to see it had moved at the same rate as on the preceding days."

In spite of his assumption that it was a planet, he took the conservative route and announced it as a comet. In a letter to astronomer Barnaba Oriani of Milan he made his suspicions known in writing:

"I have announced this star as a comet, but since it is not accompanied by any nebulosity and, further, since its movement is so slow and rather uniform, it has occurred to me several times that it might be something better than a comet. But I have been careful not to advance this supposition to the public."

He was not able to observe it long enough (it was soon lost in the glare of the Sun) to compute its orbit with existing methods, but the renowned mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss developed a new method of orbit calculation that allowed astronomers to locate it again. After its orbit was better determined, it was clear that Piazzi's assumption was correct and this object was not a comet but more like a small planet. It was also almost exactly where the Titius-Bode law predicted a planet would be.

Piazzi named it "Ceres Ferdinandea", after the Classical Greek and Sicilian goddess of grain and King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Sicily. The Ferdinandea part was later dropped for political reasons. Ceres turned out to be the first, and largest, of the asteroids existing within the Asteroid Belt.

In 1923, the 1000th asteroid to be numbered was named 1000 Piazzia in his honour. More recently, a large albedo feature, probably a crater, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope on Ceres, has been informally named 'Piazzi'.ca:Giuseppe Piazzi de:Giuseppe Piazzi es:Giuseppe Piazzi fr:Giuseppe Piazzi scn:Giuseppi Piazzi sl:Giuseppe Piazzi sv:Giuseppe Piazzi

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