On March 13, 1781, German-born English astronomer William Hershel discovers Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun.

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It was the first discovery in modern times and the first to be made with the use of a telescope.  It was the telescope that allowed Herschel to distinguish it from a star.

Herschel_40_footHerschel’s telescope

Herschel named the planet Georgium Sidus, or the “Georgian Planet,” in honor of King George III of England. To use a name that would conform to the classical mythology-derived names of other known planets, German astronomer, Johann Bode suggested “Uranus”. Uranus, the ancient Greek deity of the heavens, was a predecessor of the Olympian gods. By the mid-19th century, it was also the generally accepted name of the seventh planet from the sun.  William Hershel was later knighted for his discovery.

The planet Uranus is a gas giant like Jupiter and Saturn and is made up of hydrogen, helium, and methane. The third largest planet, Uranus orbits the sun once every 84 earth years and is the only planet to spin perpendicular to its solar orbital plane. In January 1986, the unmanned U.S. spacecraft Voyager 2 visited the planet, discovering 10 additional moons to the five already known, and a system of faint rings around the gas giant.

uranus03_sk11False color Hubble view of Uranus showing cloud details (NASA and Erich Karkoschka, University of Arizona)

uranus04_sk12Recent Hubble image of
Uranus and it rings

(Erich Karkoschka, University of
Arizona, and NASA)

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One response

  1. Birgit says:

    I always liked this planet…it was my second favourite next to Saturn…..maybe it is the name because it always made me giggle

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