Recreations in Astronomy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 199 pages of information about Recreations in Astronomy.

URANUS.

Sign [Symbol]; the initial of Herschel, and sign of the world.

DISTANCE FROM THE SUN, 1,771,000,000 MILES.  DIAMETER, 31,700 MILES.  AXIAL REVOLUTION UNKNOWN.  ORBITAL, 84 YEARS.  VELOCITY PER MINUTE, 252 MILES.  MOONS, FOUR.

Uranus was presented to the knowledge of man as an unexpected reward for honest work.  It was first mistaken by its discoverer for a comet, a mere cloud of vapor; but it proved to be a world, and extended the [Page 174] boundaries of our solar system, in the moment of its discovery, as much as all investigation had done in all previous ages.

Sir William Herschel was engaged in mapping stars in 1781, when he first observed its sea-green disk.  He proposed to call it Georgium Sidus, in honor of his king; but there were too many names of the gods in the sky to allow a mortal name to be placed among them.  It was therefore called Uranus, since, being the most distant body of our system, as was supposed, it might appropriately bear the name of the oldest god.  Finding anything in God’s realms of infinite riches ought not to lead men to regard that as final, but as a promise of more to follow.

This planet had been seen five times by Flamsteed before its character was determined—­once nearly a century before—­and eight times by Le Monnier.  These names, which might easily have been associated with a grand discovery, are associated with careless observation.  Eyes were made not only to be kept open, but to have minds behind them to interpret their visions.  Herschel thought he discovered six moons belonging to Uranus, but subsequent investigation has limited the number to four.  Two of these are seen with great difficulty by the most powerful telescopes.

If the plane of our moon’s orbit were tipped up to a greater inclination, revolving it on the line of nodes as an axis until it was turned 85 deg., the moon, still continuing on its orbit in that plane, would go over the poles instead of about the equator, and would go back to its old path when the plane was revolved 180 deg.; but its revolution would now be from east to west, or [Page 175] retrograde.  The plane of the moons of Uranus has been thus inclined till it has passed 10 deg. beyond the pole, and the moons’ motions are retrograde as regards other known celestial movements.  How Uranus itself revolves is not known.  There are more worlds to conquer.

NEPTUNE.

God of the sea; sign [Symbol], his trident.

DISTANCE FROM THE SUN, 2,775,000,000 MILES.  DIAMETER, 34,500 MILES.  VELOCITY PER MINUTE, 201.6 MILES.  AXIAL REVOLUTION UNKNOWN.  ORBITAL, 164.78 YEARS.  ONE MOON.

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Recreations in Astronomy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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