James Challis, British astronomer

James Challis, British astronomer

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Credit: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: James Challis (1803-1882), British astronomer and clergyman. James Challis is most famous in the history of astronomy for his failure to discover the planet Neptune. In 1846 he was persuaded by John Herschel to join the search for the predicted eighth planet in the solar system. Unfortunately, neither Herschel nor Challis were quick enough to officially claim that the planet existed. However, in Challis' observations notebook, he had recorded seeing Neptune twice, as a 'star' with a disc, but had failed to identify it as the eighth planet. Challis was director of the Cambridge Observatory from 1836 to 1861 at Cambridge University, and was also the University's Plumian Professor for 46 years until his death in 1882.

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