The Far Planets - Uranus
moons herschel william sun
Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, with the third largest diameter in the solar system. It was named for the father of the god Saturn in Roman mythology.
Uranus looks featureless through even the most powerful telescopes. Scientists believe the planet is shrouded in clouds that hide it from view. The presence of methane in the upper atmosphere is believed to account for the planet's light blue-green color. It takes eighty-four Earth years for Uranus to orbit around the sun. Uranus is unique in the solar system, because its axis is tilted so far from its orbital plane. The planet lies on its "side" as it orbits with a pole pointed toward the Sun.
Uranus has nearly two dozen moons. They are named after characters from the plays of William Shakespeare (1564–1616) and from the poem The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope (1688–1744).
Herschel Discovers Uranus and Two of Its Moons
The astronomer Frederic William Herschel (1738–1822) was born in Germany, but lived and worked in Britain. He dropped his first name and was commonly known as William Herschel. On March 13, 1781, he was searching the sky with his telescope when he discovered Uranus. Herschel wanted to name the planet "Georgium Sidus" in honor of King George III of England. However, the name Uranus was selected from ancient mythology.
A few years later, in 1787, Herschel was the first to spot satellites around the planet. He discovered the two largest moons named Titania and Oberon.
During the mid-1800s two more moons were discovered around Uranus by the British astronomer William Lassell (1799–1880). It was another century before the next moon was found. During the 1980s and 1990s more than a dozen new moons were added to the list. The most recent moon discovery took place in 2001 by astronomers at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.