In 1847 he began to devote his attention to astronomy; and from 1852 to 1861 he discovered fourteen asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, on which account he received the grand astronomical prize from the Academy of Sciences.
For while Hegel, depending on a numerical proportion suggested by Plato, hinted in a single sentence that it might be a mistake to look for a planet between Mars and Jupiter, Giuseppe Piazzi (q.v.) had already discovered the first of the asteroids (Ceres) on the ist of January 1801.
As early as 1860 Newcomb communicated an important memoir to the American Academy, 4 On the Secular Variations and Mutual Relation of the Orbits of the Asteroids, in which he discussed the two principal hypotheses to account for the origin of these bodies - one, that they are the shattered fragments of a single planet (Olbers' hypothesis), the other, that they have been formed by the breaking up of a revolving ring of nebulous matter.
Known asteroids lies between Mars and Jupiter.
The support that appeared to be given to the theory by the presence of supposed calycinal plates in the embryo of echinoids and asteroids has been, in the opinion of many, undermined by E.
Aboral) poles of starfish and crinoids are not comparable with one another, and that all conclusions based on the supposed homology of the dorso-central of echinoids and asteroids with that of crinoids are incorrect.
Palaeontology, so far as it goes, is a sure guide, but some of the oldest fossiliferous rocks yield remains of distinctly differentiated crinoids, asteroids and echinoids, so that the problem is not solved merely by collecting fossils.