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Space Station Info :: Nine Planet Solar System :: History of Uranus :: Discovery Of Uranus

Discovery Of Uranus

In the prehistoric times Uranus was the first planet that was not known in times, even though it had been observed on many previous occasions but was always dismissed as merely another star. The primal recorded sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed catalogued it as 34 Tauri. Flamsteed observed Uranus twice again, in 1712 and 1715. Bradley observed it in 1748, 1750 and 1753; Mayer in 1756.

Discovery Of Uranus

Le Monnier Observed it four times in 1750, twice in 1768, six times in 1769, and one last time in 1771. He was a sufferer of his own disorder: one of his observations was found consigned on a paper bag used to store hair powder!

Sir William Herschel discovered the planet on March 13, 1781, but reported it on April 26, 1781 as a "comet": Description of a Comet, By Mr. Herschel, F. R. S.; Communicated by Dr. Watson, Jun. of Bath, F. R. S., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 71, pp. 492-501.

Herschel formerly named it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) in honors of King George III of England. As it was pointed out that sidus means star and not planet, he rebaptised it the Georgian Planet. Besides, this name was not acceptable outside of Britain. Lalande proposed in 1784 to name it Herschel, at the same time that he created the planet's symbol ("a globe surmounted by your initial"); his proposal was readily adopted by French astronomers. Prosperin, of Uppsala, proposed the names Astraea, Cybele, and Neptune (now borne by two asteroids and a planet). Lexell, of St. Petersburg, compromised with George III's Neptune and Great-Britain's Neptune. Bernoulli, from Berlin, suggested Hypercronius and Transaturnis.

Lichtenberg, from Göttingen, chimed in with Austräa, a goddess mentioned by Ovid. The name Minerva was also proposed. At last, Bode, as editor of the Berliner Astronomisches Jahrbuch, opted for Uranus, after the Greek god; Hell followed suit by using it in the first ephemeris, published in Vienna. Examination of earliest issues of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1827 shows that the name Uranus was already the most frequent name used even by British astronomers by then, and probably earlier. The name Georgium Sidus or "the Georgian" were still used rarely (by the British alone) thereafter. The final propose was HM Nautical Almanac Office, which did not switch to Uranus until 1850.

Exploration of Uranus

NASA's Voyager 2, is the only spacecraft to have visited the planet and no other visits are planned. Launched in 1977, Voyager made its closest approach to Uranus on January 24, 1986, before continuing on its journey to Neptune.

Physical Characteristics
Discovery And Naming Of Uranus
Visibility And Appearance
Ring And Moons