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  • Six planets were known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It

  • wasn’t until 1781, during the Age of Enlightenment, the age of thegentleman scientist,”

  • that the seventh planet was discovered.

  • Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel was a German musician who fled French-occupied Hanover during the

  • Seven YearsWar. He made a new life in England, settling in Bath where he was appointed

  • a church organist, a respected position. He changed his name to William,

  • a proper English name.

  • In 1773, at the age of 35, Herschel took up the gentlemanly pursuit of science. He acquired

  • a copy of James Ferguson’s bookAstronomy,” and Robert Smith’s “Opticks.” Eager

  • to apply what he had learned from these texts, Herschel began constructing special reflecting

  • mirrors and soon had made one of the most powerful telescopes of its day. With it, he

  • was able to view the heavens with great clarity. Herschel, with the assistance of his sister

  • Caroline, undertook a survey of the night sky, paying special attention to double stars.

  • On March 13, 1781, Herschel took a closer look at what was assumed to be a faint star.

  • It had been previously catalogued by other astronomers as 34 Tauri, the 34th star of

  • Taurus, the Bull. Through his powerful telescope, however, Herschel observed it with fresh eyes.

  • In his notes he wroteIn the quartile near Zeta Tauri ... either [a] nebulous star or

  • perhaps a comet.” Four days later, on March 17, 1781, he wrote “I looked for the Comet

  • or Nebulous Star and found that it is a Comet, for it has changed its place. ”

  • Herschel had discovered a new heavenly body that moved. It turned out not to be a comet,

  • but a PLANET, the first to be discovered since prehistoric times. It was twice as far away

  • from the sun as Saturn. Overnight, Herschel had doubled the size of the known solar system.

  • Herschel wanted to name his findGeorgium Sidus”, Latin forGeorgian starafter

  • King George III of England. Cooler heads prevailed, and the name Uranus was settled upon, which

  • followed the tradition of naming planets after Greek and Roman Gods.

  • Uranus was the Greek God of the Sky.

  • As news of his discovery spread, Herschel became famous overnight, and he was appointed

  • by George III as the Royal Astronomer. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society,

  • and was awarded grants to continue his work and build more telescopes.

  • Herschel went on to discover two of the moons orbiting Uranus. His son John named them Oberon

  • and Titania after the King and Queen of the fairies in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer

  • Night’s Dream. Most of the moons of Uranus discovered later were also named after Shakespearean

  • characters (Juliet, Miranda, etc.)

  • Herschel was knighted in 1816 for his invaluable contributions to science. His discovery of

  • Uranus shattered the notion that the ancients had discovered everything in the solar system.

  • Herschel’s work ushered in a new era of astronomy - one in which momentous discoveries

  • were still possible.

  • The universe is a pretty big place, and so is that subscribe button.

  • I’m not going to tell you to click it, because I’m certain youll do the right thing……

  • The right thing is to click the button.

Six planets were known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It

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