Uranus

Until 1850, the planet Uranus was originally known in England by which name?

And the answer: George's Star.

Photo credit: public domain. 

In 1781, the astronomer William Herschel discovered that the celestial object we know today as Uranus wasn't a star, but rather a planet. He named it after England's King George III. However those outside Britain didn't appreciate the name, and nearly 70 years later it was changed to Uranus, after the Greek god of the sky.  

March 13, 1781 marks the first discovery of a planet since antiquity, as well as the birth of a new era of astronomical learning. Herschel's discovery of Uranus invited scientists to do what he had done: to go outside, equipped with a telescope, and look up.

Before Herschel, Uranus had been observed on many occasions. Rudimentary telescopes and clear skies revealed the faint, slowly rotating planet. As such, the planet was thought to be a star for millennia. The earliest known observation of Uranus comes from Hipparchus, who recorded it as a star in 128 BCE. Following this observations, centuries of astronomers noted the star-like qualities of the celestial being.

Uranus took shape with the rest of the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago. The seventh planet from the sun, Uranus is the third largest in the solar system – around 63 times the volume of Earth. To learn more about the unique qualities of Uranus, check out this askQOTD article.


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