March 13th 1781: Uranus discovered


William Herschel (1738 – 1822)


On this day in 1781, the planet Uranus was discovered by British astronomer William Herschel. He was in his garden in Bath, England when he observed the planet with his telescope. He initially thought thought the body was a comet but after he reported the sighting other astronomers weighed in and concluded it was indeed a new planet. At first Herschel wanted to name the planet after King George III, but foreign scientists were not too keen on that Anglocentric name. Eventually German astronomer Johann Bode suggested the name Uranus, which is the Latin name for the Greek god of the sky Ouranos. Thus Uranus joined other planets in the solar system whose names derived from the genealogy of Greek gods: Uranus was Saturn’s father, Saturn was Jupiter’s father and Jupiter was Mars’s father. The element uranium, which was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, was named in honour of Uranus.



Uranus as observed by the Hubble telescope


“By the observation of the most eminent Astronomers in Europe it appears that the new star, which I had the honour of pointing out to them in March 1781, is a Primary Planet of our Solar System
Herschel in 1783 to President of the Royal Society Joesph Banks


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