The Discovery Of Uranus

Uranus was discovered by the English astronomer William Herschel, who had undertaken a survey of all stars down to eighth magnitude—i.e., those about five times fainter than stars visible to the naked eye. On March 13, 1781, he found "a curious either nebulous star or perhaps a comet,"

distinguished from the stars by its clearly visible disk. Its lack of any trace of a tail and its slow motion led within months to the conclusion that the object was a planet, rather than a comet or an asteroid, moving in a nearly circular orbit well beyond Saturn. Observations of the new planet during the next 65 years revealed discrepancies in its orbital motion—evidence of gravitational forces on Uranus that were not due to any other known planet, which ultimately led to the discovery of yet more distant Neptune in 1846.

Herschel suggested naming his new discovery Georgium Sidus (Latin: "Georgian Planet") after his patron, King George III of England, while the French favoured the name Herschel. The planet was eventually named according to the tradition of naming planets for the gods of Greek and Roman mythology; Uranus is the father of Saturn, who is in turn the father of Jupiter.

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