Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A planet named George

Georgium Sidus was one of the early names of planet Uranus. The name was given to the planet by its discoverer Sir William Herschel to honor George III., who was King of England when the planet was discovered by Herschel in 1781 [1]. Georgium Sidus means the star of George III. of England. The planet was also called Herschel after its discoverer.

Neil deGrasse Tyson writes that he finds “something unsettling about a planet named George, even if he is a king” [2]. Others must have felt the same way and George was eventually named Uranus, after a god known from Greek and Roman mythology.  In Greek mythology Uranus was the son or husband of Gaia (Earth) and father of Chronos (Time) and the Titans [1].  There are differing and confusing versions of the sex-life of Uranus. Somehow, he ended up being castrated: Uranus (the sky) separated from Gaia (Mother Earth) [3]. In  Roman mythology Uranus is the god of the sky. In modern astronomy Uranus is the seventh of the eight planets (after Pluto's fall from planet status) of the solar system, orbiting the sun between the orbits of his outer-planet companions Saturn and Neptun.

Keywords: astronomy, planetary science, nomenclature

References and more to explore
[1] Uranus, Georgium Sidus. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) [dictionary.die.net/georgium%20sidus].
[2] Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Pluto Files. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 2009; page 8.
[3] Uranus - God of the Heavens: www.crystalinks.com/uranusrome.html.

No comments:

Post a Comment