In the same issue, the secretary to the Académie, Hervé Faye, wrote that the best chance of seeing Le Verrier’s hypothetical asteroids was during a solar eclipse.
No persuasive candidates materialized in this first pass—but then again, knowing what you’re looking for is a powerful aid to discovery. Edmond Modeste Lescarbault was a humble, almost diffident man.
He lived a small life, confined mostly to a modest compass between the Seine and the Loire rivers, about 70 miles west and a touch south of Paris.
He would steal time there between patients, just minutes sometimes, sneaking from his office to the dome to look, perhaps to dream, just a little.
The discovery of the asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter led him to wonder: where else might such treasures lurk?
Instead, he thought not about the planet in transit, but whether there might be other unobserved transits to seek. His medical practice needed nurturing, for one thing, but more important, he was a true amateur. Lescarbault takes the opportunity to retreat to his observatory. An object leaps into view: a small, regular dot, just inside the limb of our star.