Thursday, November 15, 2012
German-born British astronomer and composer William Herschel was born on November 15, 1738, in Hanover Germany. At age 19 he sought refuge from the Seven Years’ War in England, where his musical ability (he composed 24 symphonies) led to interests in mathematics and lenses. He began building reflecting telescopes and later became famous for their manufacture. In 1781, he identified a planet beyond Saturn he called the “Georgian star” (Georgium sidus) after King George III, but it became known as Uranus to conform to other known planets’ classical mythology-derived names. In 1800, while testing filters to observe sun spots, he accidentally discovered infrared radiation by holding a thermometer beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. Pictured: rings of Uranus, which is tipped on its side, from Voyager 2.