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Science: Sen for Ju

1 minute read

Unbelievable news came last week from the Kyoto University Observatory at Kyoto, Japan—the discovery of a new planet 11,000 miles in diameter and only 180,000,000 miles from the earth! No planet so large and near (the earth’s diameter is 7,918 mi., its distance from the sun 92,900,000 mi.) could exist beyond modern astronomers’ knowledge. They long ago would have spied it with their telescopes, if not with their unaided eyes. Or they would have calculated its existence, as the late Percival Lowell calculated the existence of the unseen planet Pluto (TIME, June 2, 1930) from the perturbations it caused in the orbits of the known planets. Questioning cables went to Japan.

Kaname Nakamura of the Kyoto observatory staff, when his agitation subsided, was able to trace a gross error. A reporter had misread the Japanese picture-word which described the new heavenly body. The symbol for ten, or ju, is approximately that of the mathematical plus sign (+); for 1,000 or sen, approximately that of the plus-or-minus sign (±). The careless reporter had added the upper cross bar. The new “planet” is a planetoid, about 110 not 11,000 miles in diameter. It lies between Mars and Jupiter in the general orbit of the thousand-odd other planetoids (TIME, March 24, 1930).

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