Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin



Johann Gottfried Galle, a German astronomer, is born in Radis, a small village in Saxony-Anhalt (between Berlin and Luther´s Wittenberg). Beginning in 1835 he will spend 16 years working at Berlin observatory.

Johann Galle

Johann Galle

Galle counts as the discoverer of Kreppring (the inner dark ring) of Saturn, of three new comets and, last but not least, of a new planet.

On the morning of September 23rd, 1846 he received a letter from Urbain Le Verrier, a French mathematician and astronomer who was studying the irregularities on Uranus´ (then the last known planet) orbit. Contrary to what Le Verrier expected, upon observation it´s movements were at odds with Newton´s laws of gravity.

In his letter to Galle the French scientist asked his German colleague to point the Berlin observatory refractor – the 9-inch great telescope produced by Frauenhofer was world-famous for its quality –  in the direction he established in his lengthy calculations.

Later that day, after getting the necessary permission from the then head of the observatory Johann Franz Encke, Galle begins to prepare for the night observation. Assisted by Heinrich Louis d´Arrest a couple of hours later he will see a massive star only 1° away from the position named by Verrier. The star was not registered in the Celestial Map of Berlin Academy. This star turned out to be a new planet: Neptune.

Galle never accepted the title of Neptune´s discoverer, attributing the breakthrough entirely to Verrier and his calculations.

And this discovery was made in Berlin Observatory – Sternwarte – in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Nothing is left today of Schinkel´s building. Only the names of the surrounding streets: Besselstrasse, Enckestrasse –  remind of this spot´s heavenly past.

Berlin Sternwarte (Observatory) on the map from 1896

Berlin Sternwarte (Observatory) on the map from 1896

The same area today (Google Maps)

The same area today (Google Maps)

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