The Risky Anniversary Birthday Bash Winner



Catinbody, email me at carolyn AT with your name and at least an email address so I can get you the gift card. Not sure if I need your mailing address. I might.

Regency Planets

My 1807 Brooke’s Gazeteer starts its listing of all places geographical in Michneresque fashion: with a discussion of the solar system.

Here are the Regency planets in the order listed:

  1. Mercury
  2. Venus
  3. Earth
  4. Mars
  5. Jupiter
  6. Saturn
  7. The Georgian

The first 6 should be pretty familiar to you and doubtless you’ve noticed the list seems to be missing one or two planets along with a bonus mystery planet. There are 8 planets, as you probably know. 9 if you can’t bear to give up Pluto.

Number 7, The Georgian, is better known to us today as Uranus. From Brook’s Gazeteer:

The Georgian, the most remote planet in our system, had escaped the observation of every astronomer, as a planet, till the 13th of March 1781, when it was ascertained to be a planet by Mr. Herschel, at Bath, who gave it the name of Georgium Sidus, as a mark of respect to his present majesty. Foreign astronomers, however, in general, call it by the name of the discoverer . . . It shines with a faint steady light, somewhat paler and fainter than Jupiter; but its apparent diameter being only about four seconds, it can only be seen by the naked eye in a clear night, when the Moon is absent. Six satellites, attending upon it, have since been discovered.

A little additional Googling about reveals that on the 13th of March, 1781 Mr. Herschel was trying out a new telescope. I bet everyone called Herschel Gadget Boy. If they didn’t they should have. This is how you justify cool toys: But honey! I know you want a new butter mold, but lookit! A planet!
201 years later, Voyager 2 flew past The Georgian (in 1982) getting closest in 1986. Think about that. In 1781 they didn’t even have the internal combustion engine. 201 years later, we’re flying spacecraft. Holy heck.

Basically, everyone seemed to recognize that Georgium Sidus was a lame name for a planet and folks all over the place put forth various other names, some of them equally lame– Neptune Great Britain? Really?  –but finally in 1850, the suggestion of Uranus stuck, leading, as we all know, to any number of schoolyard jokes about that name.

Perhaps the original name is not so surprising once you know that George III then gave Herschel a L200 per year stipend provided he move to Windsor and let the Royal family look through his telescope. You can read more about this at the Wikipedia article on Uranus minus my patented way with words of course.

What about Neptune? According to Wikipedia:

Neptune was mathematically predicted before it was directly observed. With a prediction by Urbain Le Verrier, telescopic observations confirming the existence of a major planet were made on the night of September 23, 1846, and into the early morning of the 24th, at the Berlin Observatory, by astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle (assisted by Heinrich Louis d’Arrest), working from Le Verrier’s calculations. It was a sensational moment of 19th century science and dramatic confirmation of Newtonian gravitational theory. In François Arago’s apt phrase, Le Verrier had discovered a planet “with the point of his pen.”
(My emphasis of the date)

Others had observed the wiggle in The Georgian’s orbit, but it took a while for someone to posit that the wiggle was caused by another planet. Score one for Newton and the scientific method. The Wikepedia article on Neptune and the section on all the people, going back to Gallileo, who may have observed it, but not realized it was a planet is fascinating reading. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia entry.

Pluto, you ask? Well, Pluto isn’t a planet. Sorry.

Therefore, during the Regency, be careful of what planets people might discuss, how many they think there are and also what they called them. Not to mention what country they’re in or from when they’re showing off by naming the planets. Note that my Brook’s Gazeteer listed the Uranus as The Georgian and only in the description did it give the name Georgium Sidus.

Do you have a favorite planet? If so, which one? Where do you fall on the Pluto demotion?