In 1924 an event occurred at Dominion Observatory off Carling Avenue that played an instrumental role in what would later be the discovery of the dwarf planet Pluto. Now quietly hidden off Carling Avenue, this stately old Observatory once sat on the outskirts of the city, far away from the bright lights of downtown Ottawa. Its huge copper dome once retracted to reveal a giant telescope that scanned the heavens for new planets.
Looking like some lost relic from a Jules Verne novel, this unique Ottawa building played a pivotal role in history when two astronomers stationed at our Observatory accidentally discovered what would be later known as Planet X, or as some call it, the DOOMSDAY PLANET.
THE HEAVENS AND THE HELL
Scanning an old newspaper article from a 1930 Ottawa Journal, a curious headline appeared that stated:
“Pluto’s major role had its setting in the Dominion observatory at Ottawa”
This piqued my interest, and through further research it seems Ottawa’s old Observatory was part of a curious investigation known in astronomy circles as “The Ottawa Object”.
Rewinding the clocks a bit further back to the 1880s, Ottawa had a small observatory in a shack on the Ottawa River where the Supreme Court is now, but in 1902, it was decided that Canada needed a more substantial observatory to study the heavens.
Chief Dominion Architect of the time, David Ewart, designed the Dominion Observatory and this grand building was constructed near Dow’s Lake on the Agriculture Department’s Central Experimental Farm. A Romanesque Revival building with exquisite details and a huge copper retractable dome, it was completed in 1905 utilizing a 15-inch refracting telescope, the largest of its kind in Canada. (the telescope is now with the Museum of Science and Technology, moved there when the Observatory closed in 1970)
One night in 1924, two astronomers working at the Observatory, Francois Henroteau and a Miss Burland discovered a mysterious new planet that would be dubbed “PLANET X”. It wouldn’t be until 1930 that their discovery was publicized. (SIDENOTE: It was stated by the Canadian Astronomical Society that Burland became the first woman in the Canadian government service to wear pants on the job because she was observing the stars for long hours in Ottawa’s cold winters.)
Also termed the ‘Ottawa object,’ it was reported on April 22, 1930, during the discovery of Pluto. The Ottawa Observatory director at the time, R. M. Stewart, announced that the mysterious object had been found during a search for pre-discovery observations of Pluto by Henroteau and Miss Burland on photo plates taken here in Ottawa in 1924. The Director remarked the orbit of the unusual object was uncertain.
‘The “Ottawa Object” plates were lost, and as of 1979 nothing more concerning this unusual celestial object has been reported. Until now.
Other than the missing Ottawa photo plates from 1924 that apparently showed Planet X, there has been no further proof of its existence. But now with the use of infrared and radio equipment, astronomers are now returning to the 1924 Ottawa Object and say a Neptune-sized planet does indeed exist in the outer limits beyond Pluto.
In 2016 two scientists came forward with evidence that an unseen object similar in size to Neptune orbits the sun every 15,000 years. They say 4.5 million years ago the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun, but it settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it may again return into our solar system, smashing into Earth or coming close to it.
The re-discovered “Ottawa Object” or Planet X was found by Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, From an excerpt in Science Magazine the two are confidently quoted as saying: ‘We have evidence for Planet X…Why is this different? This is different because this time we’re right.
This new evidence would support the doomsday scenario of Planet X, also known to some as “Nibiru”, the lost planet. The Nibiru cataclysm belief claims to be a disastrous encounter between the Earth and this rogue planet that takes place in the early 21st century. That would be about now I guess.
I highly recommend checking out this wonderful old observatory and its little outbuildings, they are amazing pieces of Canada’s astronomical past, and sit like stoic sentinels on the grounds of the Experimental Farm. Now with new astronomical evidence pointing towards the fact this Planet X may exist, it remains a remarkable possibility that Ottawa first discovered it, and maybe our imminent demise almost one hundred years ago.
Andrew King, May 2017