Uranus and The Kings Astronomer

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While sweeping the sky in the constellation of Gemini on the night of March 13, 1781, Herschel came across a small greenish disk of light. Careful observation showed that it was slowly moving among the stars, leading him to believe that it was a strange-looking comet. Others agreed with him and for nearly a year mathematicians attempted to calculate an orbit on that basis. All attempts failed and it was finally realized that Herschel had, in fact, found another planet! This was the first such world ever discovered (the five naked-eye planets Mercury, Venus, Mars,

Jupiter, and Saturn having been known since antiquity) and it effectively doubled C

the size of the solar system. It apparently had never entered anyone's mind that .12

there actually could be more planets lying beyond those already known. u

This electrifying and unprecedented discovery catapulted Herschel to instant du fame and brought him to the attention of King George III, who appointed him 0

his private astronomer. This honor brought with it a salary sufficient to allow ntr

Herschel to give up his musical duties and spend full-time on astronomy. In —

gratitude, he named the new planet "Georgium Sidus" after his patron, but this did not find approval among other astronomers. "Uranus" was finally chosen instead, in keeping with the naming of the other five planets after gods of ancient mythology.

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