The Discovery of Uranus (1781)

On this day (13 March) in 1781 William Herschel discovered Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun. Initially, he believed it to be a comet, but by 1783 Herschel accepted it as the first planet to be discovered since antiquity. The planet is too faint to see with the naked eye unless the location is exceptionally dark.

He was born in Hanover on 15 November 1738. After a period as a musician in the Hanoverian Military Band, Herschel emigrated to England When he was nineteen. After initially acting as a musician in Sunderland, Newcastle, Leeds and Halifax, he eventually moved to Bath and became organist at the Octagon Chapel. He became increasingly interested in astronomy, constructing his own telescope, with which he discovered Uranus.

Herschel later moved to Slough, where he continued his astronomical work and discoveries, assisted by his sister, Caroline, a considerable astronomer in her own right. He made many other discoveries, including infrared radiation. A crater on the Moon is named after him, as is minor planet 2000 Herschel.

Note: Much of the information in this blog post comes from this book.

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