William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus
Originally shared by Vladimir Pecha
Today in science: Discovery of Uranus
It was the first planet found since ancient times. William Herschel noticed it in 1781 during a routine survey of the stars.
March 13, 1781. The 7th planet – Uranus – was discovered on this date, completely by accident. British astronomer William Herschel was performing a survey of all stars of at least magnitude 8 – from slightly too faint to see with the eye, in other words. That’s when he noticed a very faint object – only barely within the limit for viewing with the eye – that that moved in front of the fixed stars. This movement clearly demonstrated it was closer to us than the stars. At first he thought he had found a comet. Later, he and others realized it was a new planet in orbit around our sun, the first new planet discovered since ancient times.
Astronomers later learned they had observed Uranus as far back as 1690. They’d just never really noticed it before. It was Herschel who first realized the true nature of this distant light in our sky.