The tradition of naming planets after ancient Greek gods is still strong. But briefly, one of the planets was named for an earthly king. Continue reading →
¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending October 11, 2014
A frozen blue-green ball that orbits the sun beyond Saturn has the distinction of being the first planet discovered with a telescope, although it isn’t completely invisible without one. Probably, someone saw Uranus thousands of years ago but never gave it much thought.
William Herschel spotted Uranus in 1781. At first he thought it was a comet, because it looked fuzzy. It moved from night to night, like a comet. But it didn’t move as fast as other comets known until Herschel’s time. After a few weeks of observation and calculating its orbit, Herschel concluded he was looking at a planet.
Herschel was born in Germany but had moved to Britain. He made money as a musician, but wanted to work as an astronomer. When King George III learned of Herschel’s discovery, he granted Herschel £200 per year to underwrite his astronomy work. In honor of the king, Herschel named the planet Georgium Sidus or “the Georgian Planet”.
Herschel felt that naming ...