A new member of our solar system body has just been announced. W2021 PH27 is an asteroid located between the Sun and the planet Mercury. It was discovered by Scott Sheppard using the Dark Energy Survey‘s DECam imager at NOIRLab‘s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. It is the fastest body in the solar system with the shortest known orbital period for an asteroid.
According to The Carnegie Science website this newfound asteroid ” is about 1 kilometer in size and is on an unstable orbit that crosses that of Mercury and Venus. This means that within a few million years it will likely be destroyed in a collision with one of these planets or the Sun, or it will be ejected from its current position.” As to how long the asteroid has held this position nobody knows. It may be one of the Vulcanoids which are thought to exist in this locality.
What is really interesting about this asteroid is that for several hundred years it was proposed that a small body might be orbiting the Sun within the orbit of Mercury. It was back in the 1840’s that French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier suggested that that peculiarities in Mercury’s orbit were the result of an intramecurial planet. The name given to this hypothetical body was Vulcan, appropriately after the Greek god of fire and metallurgy.
It wasn’t long before an amateur astronomer by the name of Edmond Modeste Lescarbault claimed to have actually observed Vulcan. The account of this humble country doctor’s discovery is detailed in Thomas Levenson’s book The Hunt For Vulcan. Convinced of the news Le Verrier promptly announced in 1860 the discovery of the planet Vulcan at the Academie des Sciences in Paris. Soon Vulcan was a respectable scientific theory, even if it wasn’t officially verified.
Eventually Mercury’s problems were explained away by Einstein’s general relativity theory, but Vulcan had captured our imagination. The occultist, Helena Blavatsky, mentioned this elusive planet in her esoteric tome, The Secret Doctrine. She claimed that Vulcan exists but is composed of some highly refined matter so it is difficult to see. To be fair, various types of astronomy, Radio, Infared, Ultrviolet, X-ray and Gamma-ray, have revealed worlds of which we otherwise would have never known, so perhaps the discovery of Vulcan is yet to come.
In the 1950’s the idea of this intramecurial planet resurfaced in the esoteric writings of Alice A. Baily. She was following up on the hints by Madam Blavatsky. Vulcan is counted as one of seven sacred planets within her esoteric astrology system. Here Vulcan ‘s influence is said to just too powerful to be made known at this time. It reaches into the depths of the human personality and drags everything negative to the surface. Vulcan is such a deep mystery that Bailey uses the names of several other planets to “veil” it’s presence in her work.
Perhaps you recall the science fiction character that Leonard Nimoy played in Star Trek. Commander Spock was of mixed Earth-Vulcan heritage. How did that come about? Well, the director of this television show, Gene Roddenbery, placed Spock’s home world, Vulcan, in the constellation of Eridanus. That place in space is now being explored by telescope. Of the several exoplanets located, one has been identified as Vulcan to the delight of many trekkies.
So is W2021 PH27 the end of our search for long lost Vulcan? Probably not. But it might be one of the signs that the presence of this mysterious planet is being registered in our consciousness. Where there is smoke you usually find fire. Astrologers claim that humanity unconsciously sensed the forces of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto just as each of these outer bodies were about to be discovered. These “invisible bodies” were there the whole time and we never knew it.