Year
1781
Month Day
March 13

William Herschel discovers Uranus

The German-born English astronomer William Herschel discovers Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. Herschel’s discovery of a new planet was the first to be made in modern times, and also the first to be made by use of a telescope, which allowed Herschel to distinguish Uranus as a planet, not a star, as previous astronomers believed.

Herschel, who was later knighted for his historic discovery, named the planet Georgium Sidus, or the “Georgian Planet,” in honor of King George III of England. However, German astronomer Johann Bode proposed the name “Uranus” for the celestial body in order to conform to the classical mythology-derived names of other known planets. Uranus, the ancient Greek deity of the heavens, was a predecessor of the Olympian gods. By the mid-19th century, it was also the generally accepted name of the seventh planet from the sun.

The planet Uranus is a gas giant like Jupiter and Saturn and is made up of hydrogen, helium, and methane. The third largest planet, Uranus orbits the sun once every 84 earth years and is the only planet to spin perpendicular to its solar orbital plane. In January 1986, the unmanned U.S. spacecraft Voyager 2 visited the planet, discovering 10 additional moons to the five already known, and a system of faint rings around the gas giant.

Tags
terms:
Space

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

"Paris is Burning" premieres in theaters

After more than five years of fundraising, shooting, and editing, the documentary Paris is Burning debuts in New York City on March 13, 1991. The groundbreaking look at the culture and characters surrounding the city’s drag ball culture changed the way many people thought about ...read more

Czar Alexander II assassinated in St. Petersbug

Czar Alexander II, the ruler of Russia since 1855, is killed in the streets of St. Petersburg by a bomb thrown by a member of the revolutionary “People’s Will” group. The People’s Will, organized in 1879, employed terrorism and assassination in their attempt to overthrow Russia’s ...read more

U.S. Army launches K-9 Corps

On March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.” Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and ...read more

Houston retreats from Santa Anna’s army

Less than a week after the disastrous defeat of Texas rebels at the Alamo, the newly commissioned Texan General Sam Houston begins a series of strategic retreats to buy time to train his ill-prepared army. Revolutionary Texans had only formally announced their independence from ...read more

Eric Clapton leaves the Yardbirds

In and of itself, one man leaving one band in the middle of the 1960s might warrant little more than a historical footnote. But what makes the departure of Eric Clapton from the Yardbirds on March 13, 1965, more significant is the long and complicated game of musical chairs it ...read more

Disney names Robert Iger as new chief executive

On March 13, 2005, the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company officially announces that Robert Iger, Disney’s president and chief operating officer, will succeed Michael Eisner as the company’s chief executive officer (CEO). As Disney’s chief executive since 1984, Eisner ...read more

Black magic, voodoo, and murder occurs at Rancho Santa Elena

Cult leader Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo sacrifices another human victim at his remote Mexican desert compound Rancho Santa Elena. When the victim didn’t beg for mercy before dying, Constanzo sent his people out to find another subject for torture and death. When they abducted ...read more

Kennedy proposes Alliance for Progress

President John F. Kennedy proposes a 10-year, multibillion-dollar aid program for Latin America. The program came to be known as the Alliance for Progress and was designed to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, which had been severely damaged in recent years. When Kennedy ...read more

Confederacy approves black soldiers

On March 13, 1865, with the main Rebel armies facing long odds against must larger Union armies, the Confederacy, in a desperate measure, reluctantly approves the use of Black troops. The situation was bleak for the Confederates in the spring of 1865. The Yankees had captured ...read more