Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Planet Uranus, Brought to You by Sir William Herschel

NASA photo of Uranus taken by Voyager 2, Jan. 10, 1986 - public domain, Wikimedia Commons
It's the 232nd anniversary of the discovery of Uranus by Sir William Herschel, who spied it while in his garden on March 13, 1781. The dusky blue planet actually had been observed previously as early as 1690, but it was always mistaken for a star. Herschel ultimately determined it to be a planet, even though he himself initially mistook it for a comet. He was asked to name this planet and he chose Georgium in honor of King George III, but this idea was met with general disfavor outside of Britain. The name Uranus comes from the Greek god who was the father of Jupiter and Saturn. The element Uranium was discovered in 1789 and was named in honor of Uranus. It's interesting that some astromers wanted to call Uranus, Neptune, although the planet Neptune hadn't been discovered yet. (Makes you wonder what Neptune would have been named if Uranus had been given that name?) And now, all kidding aside, let's hear it for Uranus! (Groan!)

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