Happy birthday, William Herschel

Posted by Anonymous
on Thursday, November 15, 2007

UranusToday marks the birth of 18th-century astronomer Frederick William Herschel. Born November 15, 1738, Herschel made many discoveries during his lifetime. Most notable among his contributions to astronomy include determining the shape of the Milky Way, determining the rotation period of Saturn's rings, and sketching changes in Jupiter's atmosphere. 

  • Mars and Jupiter show axial rotation
  • Planet Uranus (1781)
  • Uranus's two largest moons, Titania and Oberon (1787)
  • Two new saturnian moons, Enceladus and Mimas (1789)
  • Infrared radiation, using lights and prisms (1800)
  • 2,000 to 3,000 nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies
  • The period of rotation of Saturn's rings theorized by 18th-century French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon LaPlace


  • Observations of double stars (1782–1821)
  • Demonstrated that the solar system itself moves through space
  • Observed the disk-like shape of the Milky Way
  • Coined the word "asteroid" (1802)
  • Built more than 400 telescopes

Awards and honors

  • Awarded The Royal Society's Copley Medal (1781)
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1781)
  • Appointed the King's Astronomer (1782)
  • Lunar impact crater, Herschel, named in his honor
  • Mars impact crater, Herschel, named in his honor
  • Impact crater, Herschel, on saturnian moon Mimas named in his honor
  • Herschel Space Telescope, named in his honor by the European Space Agency, will launch in 2007
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