Counter-Earth

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The Counter-Earth is a hypothetical body of the Solar System which orbits on the other side of the solar system from Earth. A Counter-Earth or Antichthon (Greek : Ἀντίχθων) was hypothesized by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Philolaus (c. 470 – c. 385 BC) to support his non-geocentric cosmology, in which all objects in the universe revolve around a "Central Fire" (unseen from Earth and distinct from the Sun which also revolves around it).

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In modern times a hypothetical planet always on the other side of the Sun from Earth has been called a "Counter-Earth", [1] and has been a recurring theme in UFO claims, [2] as well as in fiction (particularly science fiction).

Greek Pythagorean universe

Philolaus believed there was a "Counter-Earth" (Antichthon) orbiting the "Central Fire" (not labeled) that was not visible from Earth. The upper illustration depicts Earth at night while the lower one depicts Earth in the day. Antichthon.svg
Philolaus believed there was a "Counter-Earth" (Antichthon) orbiting the "Central Fire" (not labeled) that was not visible from Earth. The upper illustration depicts Earth at night while the lower one depicts Earth in the day.

An astronomical system positing that the Earth, Moon, Sun, planets and unseen "counter-earth" revolve around an unseen "Central Fire" was developed in the 5th century BC and attributed to the Pythagorean [4] philosopher Philolaus. Philolaus' universe moved "the earth from the center of the cosmos", [5] and provided the insight that "the apparent motion of the heavenly bodies" was (in large part) due to "the real motion of the observer"—i.e. Earth. [6]

In Philolaus' system, The Earth and Counter-Earth revolved around the unseen Central Fire every 24 hours. while the Moon's revolution was monthly, and the sun's yearly. It was the Earth's speedy travel past the slower moving Sun that resulted in the appearance on Earth of the Sun rising and setting. Further from the Central Fire, the Planets' movement was slower still, and the outermost "sky" (i.e. stars) probably fixed. [5]

Counter-Earth

Along with the Central Fire, the "mysterious" [5] Counter-Earth (Antichthon) was the other heavenly body not visible from Earth. Aristotle described it as "another Earth", from which Greek scholar George Burch infers that it must be similar in size, shape and constitution to Earth. [7] Some (astronomer John Louis Emil Dreyer) think Philolaus had it following an orbit so that it was always located between Earth and the Central Fire. This tenth planet is always invisible to observers on Earth, because it is between Earth and the central fire and always keeps pace with the Earth. [8] A tale of Greek mythology may have placed it in that location to stop man from looking at the throne of Zeus directly.[ citation needed ] However, Burch argues Philolaus must have thought it orbited on the other side of the Fire from Earth. Since "counter" means "opposite", and opposite could only be in respect to the Central Fire, it follows that the Counter-Earth must be orbiting 180 degrees from Earth. [9]

According to Aristotle—a critic of the Pythagoreans—the function of the Counter-Earth was to explain "eclipses of the moon and their frequency", [10] which could not be explained by Earth blocking the light of the sun if the Earth did not revolve around the sun. Aristotle suggested that it was also introduced "to raise the number of heavenly bodies around the central fire from nine to ten, which the Pythagoreans regarded as the perfect number". [6] [11] [12]

However, Burch believes Aristotle was having a joke "at the expense of Pythagorean number theory", [6] and that the true purpose of the Counter-Earth was to "balance" Philolaus' cosmos—balance being needed because without a counter there would be only one dense, massive object in the system—Earth. Although his system had both the Earth and the Planets orbiting a single point, the ancient Greeks did not consider Earth a "planet". In the time before Galileo could observe from his telescope that planets were spheres like Earth, they were thought to be different from stars only in brightness and in their motion, and like stars composed of a fiery or ethereal matter having little or no density. However, the Earth was obviously made of the dense elements of earth and water. According to Burch,

"If there was a single Earth revolving at some distance from the center of space, then the universe's center of gravity, located in the Earth as its only dense body, would not coincide with its spatial center ... The universe, consequently, would be off center, so to speak—lopsided and asymmetric—a notion repugnant to any Greek, and doubly so to a Pythagorean." [13]

This could be corrected by another body with the same mass as Earth, orbiting the same central point but 180 degrees from Earth—the Counter-Earth. [6]

Later

In the 1st century A.D., after the idea of a spherical Earth gained more general acceptance, Pomponius Mela, a Latin cosmographer, developed an updated version of the idea, wherein a spherical Earth must have a more or less balanced distribution of land and water, even though all known continents were in the northern hemisphere. Mela drew a map which postulated a continental landmass in the unknown, southern half of Earth—the antipodes—below the equator and the tropics, climes which he believed uninhabitable and impassably hot. To the inhabitants of this continent Mela ascribed the name Antichthones. [14]

Modern era

Diagram of modern conception of the Counter-Earth, a planet in the same orbit as the Earth, but 180deg out of phase Gor-orbit-diagram.svg
Diagram of modern conception of the Counter-Earth, a planet in the same orbit as the Earth, but 180° out of phase

Philolaus's ideas were all eventually superseded by the modern realization that a spherical Earth rotating on its own axis was one of several spherical planets following the laws of gravity and revolving around a much larger Sun. The idea of a Counter-Earth waned after the heliocentric model of the solar system became widely accepted from the 16th century. In the contemporary world, "Counter-Earth" usually refers to a hypothetical planet with an orbit as Burch described, on the other side of the "Central fire"—i.e. the Sun. It cannot be seen from Earth, not because Earth faces away from the center, [Note 1] but because the Sun's great size blocks its view. It has been a recurring motif in science fiction, fiction—often serving as an allegory for the real Earth [15] —and UFO claims. [2] The 1968 Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects headed by Edward Condon at the University of Colorado even included a "Numerical Experiment on the Possible Existence of an 'Anti-Earth'" as an appendix. [16]

Scientific analysis

A planet orbiting the Sun so that it was always on the other side of the Sun from Earth—with the same orbiting velocity and path as Earth—could, in theory, have such an orbit because it was the same distance from the Sun. Thus, what would make it undetectable from Earth would also make it possible to have a range of surface temperatures similar to Earth; it is also possible that it might be habitable for beings very similar to humans. (A similar gravity and atmospheric pressure to Earth's would require a similar mass/size as Earth.)

A contour plot of the effective potential due to gravity and the centrifugal force of a two-body system in a rotating frame of reference. (In the context of this article the two bodies are the Sun--yellow; Earth--the dark body between L1 and L2. The Counter-Earth would exist at L3.) The arrows indicate the gradients of the potential around the five Lagrange points--downhill toward them (red) or away from them (blue). Counterintuitively, the L4 and L5 points are the high points of the potential. At the points themselves these forces are balanced. Lagrange points2.svg
A contour plot of the effective potential due to gravity and the centrifugal force of a two-body system in a rotating frame of reference. (In the context of this article the two bodies are the Sun—yellow; Earth—the dark body between L1 and L2. The Counter-Earth would exist at L3.) The arrows indicate the gradients of the potential around the five Lagrange points—downhill toward them (red) or away from them (blue). Counterintuitively, the L4 and L5 points are the high points of the potential. At the points themselves these forces are balanced.
Detectability

Nonetheless, a Counter-Earth could still be detected from the Earth for a number of reasons.

Even if the Sun blocked its view from Earth, a Counter-Earth would have gravitational influence (perturbation) upon the other planets, comets and man-made probes of the Solar System. [16] Researchers have detected no such influence, and indeed space probes sent to Venus, Mars and other places could not have successfully flown by or landed on their targets if a Counter-Earth existed, as the navigational calculations for their journeys did not take any putative Counter-Earth into account. Roughly speaking, anything larger than 100 miles (160 km) in diameter should have been detected. [17]

Any planetary sized body 180 degrees from Earth should also have been visible to some space probes, such as NASA's STEREO coronagraph probes (two spacecraft launched into orbits around the Sun in 2006, one farther ahead of and one behind the Earth's orbit) which would have seen the Counter-Earth during the first half of 2007. The separation of the STEREO spacecraft from Earth would give them a view of the L3 point during the early phase of the mission. [17]

If a Counter-Earth had an electromagnetic energy signature similar to that of Earth's, it would be able to be detected by astronomers since the signature would extend well beyond the surface of an Earth-like planet. The Sun's "wobbling" motion around its "barycenter" would prevent it from blocking all signs of that energy from Earth, at least for part of the year. The Sun does not remain stationary—relative to its planets—at the center of the solar system because of the gravitational pull of the most massive planet—Jupiter. [Note 2] The Sun wobbles around the "true" center known as a barycenter, which lies just outside the Sun. When the Sun's position is 90 degree from the barycenter relative to Earth, it would come close to "unblocking" from view a planet 180 degrees from Earth, enough to reveal the aforementioned hypothetical signature.[ citation needed ]

However, a Counter-Earth would nevertheless be visible from Earth because the gravitational forces of the other planets on it would make its own orbit unstable. Venus has 82% of the mass of Earth and would come within 0.3  AU of the location of a Counter-Earth every 20 months, providing considerable gravitational pull that over the years would move its orbit into sight of observers on Earth. [18] If a Counter-Earth was much smaller than Earth, its location at the "Sun–Earth L3" Lagrangian point (see diagram) would mean the combined gravitational pull of the two large masses of Earth and Sun would provide "precisely the centripetal force required to orbit with them". But a small planet would be even more influenced by the orbit of Venus, Mars and Jupiter, making it even more unstable.

Two bodies orbiting a barycenter located inside the larger body. Orbit3.gif
Two bodies orbiting a barycenter located inside the larger body.

Furthermore, for a Counter-Earth orbiting the same path as Earth to always stay 180 degrees from Earth, the two planets would have to have circular orbits, but Earth's orbit is elliptical. According to Kepler's second law, a planet revolves faster when it is close to the star, so a Counter-Earth following the Earth on the same orbit with half a year of delay would sometimes not be exactly 180 degrees from Earth. [1] To remain hidden from Earth, the Counter-Earth would require an orbit symmetrical to Earth's, not sharing the second focus or orbit path.[ citation needed ]

References in culture

See also

Notes

  1. Pythagoreans are thought to have believed that humans inhabited the side of earth facing away from the Central Fire and Counter Earth. [3]
  2. Other planets have an effect on the Sun's motion but theirs are not nearly as strong as that of Jupiter.

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Aristarchus of Samos Ancient Greek astronomer

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Philolaus

Philolaus was a Greek Pythagorean and pre-Socratic philosopher. He argued that at the foundation of everything is the part played by the limiting and limitless, which combine together in a harmony. He is also credited with originating heliocentrism, the theory that the Earth was not the center of the Universe. According to August Böckh (1819), who cites Nicomachus, Philolaus was the successor of Pythagoras.

Heliocentrism Astronomical model where the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun

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Hypothetical astronomical object

A hypothetical astronomical object is an astronomical object that is believed or speculated to exist or to have existed but whose existence has not been scientifically proven. Such objects have been hypothesized throughout recorded history. For example, in the 5th century BCE, the philosopher Philolaus defined a hypothetical astronomical object which he called the "Central Fire", around which he proposed other celestial bodies moved.

Copernican heliocentrism Concept that the Earth rotates around the Sun

Copernican heliocentrism is the name given to the astronomical model developed by Nicolaus Copernicus and published in 1543. This model positioned the Sun at the center of the Universe, motionless, with Earth and the other planets orbiting around it in circular paths, modified by epicycles, and at uniform speeds. The Copernican model displaced the geocentric model of Ptolemy that had prevailed for centuries, which had placed Earth at the center of the Universe. Copernican heliocentrism is often regarded as the launching point to modern astronomy and the Scientific Revolution.

Pythagorean astronomical system

An astronomical system positing that the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets revolve around an unseen "Central Fire" was developed in the 5th century BC and has been attributed to the Pythagorean philosopher Philolaus. The system has been called "the first coherent system in which celestial bodies move in circles", anticipating Copernicus in moving "the earth from the center of the cosmos [and] making it a planet". Although its concepts of a Central Fire distinct from the Sun, and a nonexistent "Counter-Earth" were erroneous, the system contained the insight that "the apparent motion of the heavenly bodies" was due to "the real motion of the observer". How much of the system was intended to explain observed phenomena and how much was based on myth and religion is disputed. While the departure from traditional reasoning is impressive, other than the inclusion of the 5 visible planets, very little of the Pythagorean system is based on genuine observation. In retrospect, Philolaus's views are "less like scientific astronomy than like symbolical speculation."

References

  1. 1 2 Comins, Neil F. (2010). What If the Earth Had Two Moons?: And Nine Other Thought-Provoking ... macmillan. pp. 171–172. ISBN   9781429957939.
  2. 1 2 The Ufo Book of Lists| By STEPHEN J SPIGNESI, Stephen J. Spignesi|
  3. Source: Dante and the Early Astronomers by M. A. Orr, 1913.
  4. History of the Pythagorean school hosted by Drury University, Springfield, Missouri
  5. 1 2 3 Philolaus, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Carl Huffman.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Burch, George Bosworth. The Counter-Earth. Osirus, vol. 11. Saint Catherines Press, 1954. p. 267-294
  7. Burch, 1954, p.285
  8. Dreyer, John Louis Emil (1906). History of the planetary systems from Thales to Kepler. p. 42. To complete the number ten, Philolaus created the antichthon, or counter-earth. This tenth planet is always invisible to us, because it is between us and the central fire and always keeps pace with the Earth.
  9. Burch, 1954, p.280
  10. Heath, Thomas (1981). A History of Greek Mathematics, Volume 1. Dover. p. 165. ISBN   9780486240732.
  11. Arist., Metaph. 986a8–12. quoted in Philolaus, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Carl Huffman.
  12. "Greek cosmology, The Pythagoreans". University of California, Riverside. Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2013-10-20. The importance of pure numbers is central to the Pythagorean view of the world. A point was associated with 1, a line with 2 a surface with 3 and a solid with 4. Their sum, 10, was sacred and omnipotent.
  13. Burch, 1954, p.286-7
  14. Pomponius Mela. de Chorographia.
  15. Another Earth, Doppelgänger
  16. 1 2 DUNCOMBE, R. L. "Appendix E. Report on Numerical Experiment on the Possible Existence of an "Anti-Earth"". 1968. U.S. NAVAL OBSERVATORY. Retrieved 24 October 2013. At the end of 112 years the perturbations induced by Clarion [a name for the Counter-Earth] in the motions of Venus, Earth, and Mars reached 1200", 3800", and 1660" respectively.
  17. 1 2 Could There Be a Planet Hidden on the Opposite Side of our Sun? PopSci asks the scientist who has peered around it| By Danny Freedman| PopSci | 20 April 2009
  18. DUNCOMBE, R. L. "Appendix E. Report on Numerical Experiment on the Possible Existence of an "Anti-Earth"". 1968. U.S. NAVAL OBSERVATORY. Retrieved 24 October 2013. The separation of [a Counter-Earth] from the line joining the Earth and the Sun shows a variation with increasing amplitude in time, the effect being most pronounced for the largest assumed mass. During the 112 years covered by the integration the separation becomes large enough in all cases that Clarion should have been directly observed, particularly at times of morning or evening twilight and during total solar eclipses.
  19. 1 2 Ron Goulart, The Funnies : 100 years of American comic strips. Holbrook, Mass. : Adams Pub.,1995. ISBN   1558505393 (pp. 194-5).
  20. Zero Point: The Counter-Earth
  21. Rich, Katey (July 19, 2011). "'Another Earth' presents worlds of possibilities". Cinemablend.com. a drama about what happens when a "mirror" Earth is discovered lurking behind the sun, looking exactly like our planet and containing people who are, in some strange cosmic way, twins of every single person on the planet.
  22. "From the future to the present: M. Traveler, M. Gounaras, Warlord of God. Excerpt from the book of the series "Why and How They Live Between Us" by D. Liakopoulos "The Planet of Silence"". EL. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2020.

Further reading