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On this date in 1787 William Herschel discovered 2 moons of Uranus that were later named Titania and Oberon. I have covered Herschel (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/william-herschel/ ) and Uranus (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/uranus/ ) already in my posts. Now I would like to talk about the complex moon system of Uranus, and, especially, the way in which they got their names. Herschel was terrible at giving names to objects in the solar system and, in fact, did not name the moons of Uranus that he discovered (and, to make matters worse, he claimed to have observed 4 other moons that do not exist). Furthermore, he gave the name “George’s Star” to Uranus when he discovered it, because he wanted to toady up to George III. Astronomers in other countries were not amused.

Uranus has 27 known moons, all of which are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Uranus’ moons are divided into three groups: 13 inner moons, 5 major moons, and 9 irregular moons. The inner moons are small dark bodies that share common properties and origins with Uranus’ rings. The 5 major moons are massive enough to have reached hydrostatic equilibrium, and 4 of them show signs of internally driven processes such as canyon formation and volcanism on their surfaces. The largest of these 5, Titania, is 1,578 km in diameter and the eighth-largest moon in the Solar System, and about one-twentieth the mass of Earth’s Moon. The orbits of the regular moons are nearly coplanar with Uranus’s equator, which is tilted 97.77° to its orbit. Uranus’ irregular moons have elliptical and strongly inclined (mostly retrograde) orbits at large distances from the planet.

Titania

Oberon

Titania and Oberon were spotted by Herschel six years after he had discovered the planet itself. Later, Herschel thought he had discovered up to six moons and perhaps even a ring. For nearly 50 years, Herschel’s instrument was the only one with which the moons had been seen. In the 1840s, better instruments and a more favorable position of Uranus in the sky led to sporadic indications of satellites additional to Titania and Oberon. Eventually, the next two moons, Ariel and Umbriel, were discovered by William Lassell in 1851. The Roman numbering scheme of Uranus’ moons was in a state of flux for a considerable time, and publications hesitated between Herschel’s designations (where Titania and Oberon are Uranus II and IV) and William Lassell’s (where they are sometimes I and II). With the confirmation of Ariel and Umbriel, Lassell numbered the moons I to IV from Uranus outward, and this finally stuck. In 1852, Herschel’s son John Herschel gave the four then-known moons their names.

No other discoveries were made for almost another century. In 1948, Gerard Kuiper at the McDonald Observatory discovered the smallest and the last of the five large, spherical moons, Miranda. Decades later, the flyby of the Voyager 2 space probe in January 1986 led to the discovery of ten further inner moons. Another satellite, Perdita, was discovered in 1999 after studying old Voyager photographs.

Uranus was the last giant planet without any known irregular moons, but since 1997 nine distant irregular moons have been identified using ground-based telescopes. Two more small inner moons, Cupid and Mab, were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003. As of 2016, the moon Margaret was the last Uranian moon discovered, and its characteristics were published in October 2003.

When the responsibility of naming the first four moons of Uranus was given to John Herschel, instead of assigning them names from Greek legend, he named them after magical spirits in English literature: the fairies Oberon and Titania from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the sylphs Ariel and Umbriel from Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock (Ariel is also a sprite in Shakespeare’s The Tempest). The reasoning was presumably that Uranus, as god of the sky and air, would be attended by spirits of the air. Subsequent names, rather than continuing the airy spirits theme (only Puck and Mab continued the trend), have focused on Herschel’s source material. In 1949, the fifth moon, Miranda, was named by its discoverer Gerard Kuiper after a thoroughly mortal character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The current IAU practice is to name moons after characters from Shakespeare’s plays and The Rape of the Lock (although at present only Ariel, Umbriel, and Belinda have names drawn from the latter; all the rest are from Shakespeare). At first, the outermost moons were all named after characters from one play, The Tempest; but with Margaret being named from Much Ado About Nothing that trend has ended. The moons’ names come from the following sources:

The Rape of the Lock (Alexander Pope):

Ariel, Umbriel, Belinda

Plays by William Shakespeare:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Titania, Oberon, Puck

The Tempest: (Ariel), Miranda, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, Trinculo, Francisco, Ferdinand

King Lear: Cordelia

Hamlet: Ophelia

The Taming of the Shrew: Bianca

Troilus and Cressida: Cressida

Othello: Desdemona

Romeo and Juliet: Juliet, Mab

The Merchant of Venice: Portia

As You Like It: Rosalind

Much Ado About Nothing: Margaret

The Winter’s Tale: Perdita

Timon of Athens: Cupid

To quibble, just a tad, I’d have to say that Cupid is a bit of a cheat, or at least a cheat in calling the name one that is derived from Timon of Athens rather than from the ancient Roman pantheon. Obviously, the naming of the planets after Greek and Roman gods dates back to antiquity (in the West). Breaking the tradition with planetary satellites, comets, and whatnot seems fine. However, focusing on Shakespeare for the moons of Uranus does seem awfully ethnocentric. The naming of moons has been the responsibility of the International Astronomical Union’s committee for Planetary System Nomenclature since 1973. That committee is known today as the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN). Prior to its formation, the names of satellites had varying histories. The choice of names was often determined by a satellite’s discoverer. However, historically some satellites, such as Titania and Oberon were not given names for many years after their discovery. The longest is probably Titan, a moon of Saturn, discovered by Huygens in 1655, but not named until 1847, almost two centuries later.

The recipe of the day has to be fairy cakes, I think. My twisted mind thinks of them as being like delightful little moons, as well as evocative of Shakespeare’s characters. I’ll give you the basic recipe and then leave it to you to decorate them as you please. I’ve always liked them with little wings. There’s a small gallery of ideas at the end. They are about the easiest cakes to make that I know of. I used to assist my mum making them when I was little.

Fairy cakes

Ingredients

110g/4oz butter, softened at room temperature
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g/4oz self-raising flour
1 or 2 tbsp milk

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F and line 2 x 12-hole cake tins with paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, and then stir in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour gently with a wooden spoon. Add the milk very slowly until the mixture is a soft dropping consistency, but not too wet. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases so that they are half full.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the cakes are golden-brown on top and a toothpick inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set the cake tins aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the individual cakes from the tins and cool them on a wire rack.

Decorate the cakes as you please with icing, whipped cream, sprinkles, or what-have-you.

Mar 132016
 

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On this date in 1781 Sir William Herschel observed an object with his telescope which had previously been cataloged as a star, and determined that it moved. He believed at first that it was a comet, but after much debate reclassified it as a planet – what we now call Uranus. This was the first planet to be discovered since antiquity and Herschel became famous overnight. As a result of this discovery, George III appointed him Court Astronomer. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and grants were provided for the construction of new telescopes.

Though Uranus is visible to the naked eye like the five classical planets, it was never recognized as a planet by ancient observers because of its dimness and slow orbit. Nowadays, should a new planet in the solar system be discovered, as seems quite likely, we would probably be delighted, but take it in stride. It’s hard to put ourselves into the mindset of Georgian England and fathom what an amazing discovery this was. Herschel had expanded the known boundaries of the solar system for the first time in history.

Uranus had been observed on many occasions before its recognition as a planet, but it was generally mistaken for a star. Possibly the earliest known observation was by Hipparchos, who in 128 BCE may have recorded it as a star for his star catalogue that was later incorporated into Ptolemy’s Almagest. The earliest definite sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed observed it at least six times, cataloging it as 34 Tauri. The French astronomer Pierre Lemonnier observed Uranus at least twelve times between 1750 and 1769.

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Sir William Herschel observed Uranus on March 13, 1781 from the garden of his house at 19 New King Street in Bath, Somerset, (now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy), whilst engaged in observations on the parallax of fixed stars. Because of the accuracy of the telescope he was using (of his own design), he was able to detect the planet’s motion, which had previously gone unnoticed. He also noted that it increased in size when he increased the magnification of his telescope (which stars do not), thus indicating that it lay inside the solar system.

He recorded in his journal “In the quartile near ζ Tauri … either [a] Nebulous star or perhaps a comet”. On March 17, he noted, “I looked for the Comet or Nebulous Star and found that it is a Comet, for it has changed its place”. When he presented his discovery to the Royal Society, he continued to assert that he had found a comet, although he compared it to a planet:

The power I had on when I first saw the comet was 227. From experience I know that the diameters of the fixed stars are not proportionally magnified with higher powers, as planets are; therefore I now put the powers at 460 and 932, and found that the diameter of the comet increased in proportion to the power, as it ought to be, on the supposition of its not being a fixed star, while the diameters of the stars to which I compared it were not increased in the same ratio. Moreover, the comet being magnified much beyond what its light would admit of, appeared hazy and ill-defined with these great powers, while the stars preserved that lustre and distinctness which from many thousand observations I knew they would retain. The sequel has shown that my surmises were well-founded, this proving to be the Comet we have lately observed.

Herschel notified the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, of his discovery and received this reply from him on April 23: “I don’t know what to call it. It is as likely to be a regular planet moving in an orbit nearly circular to the sun as a Comet moving in a very eccentric ellipsis. I have not yet seen any coma or tail to it”.

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Although Herschel continued to describe his new object as a comet, other astronomers had already begun to suspect otherwise. Finnish-Swedish astronomer Anders Johan Lexell, working in Russia, was the first to compute the orbit of the new object and its nearly circular orbit led him to a conclusion that it was a planet rather than a comet. Berlin astronomer Johann Elert Bode described Herschel’s discovery as “a moving star that can be deemed a hitherto unknown planet-like object circulating beyond the orbit of Saturn”. Bode concluded that its near-circular orbit was more like a planet than a comet.

The object was soon universally accepted as a new planet. By 1783, Herschel acknowledged this to Royal Society president Joseph Banks: “By the observation of the most eminent Astronomers in Europe it appears that the new star, which I had the honour of pointing out to them in March 1781, is a Primary Planet of our Solar System.” In recognition of his achievement, King George III gave Herschel an annual stipend of £200 on condition that he move to Windsor so that the Royal Family could look through his telescopes.

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Uranus is named after the ancient Greek deity of the sky Uranus (Οὐρανός), the father of Cronus (Saturn) and grandfather of Zeus (Jupiter), which in Latin became “Ūranus”. It is the only planet whose name is derived from a figure of Greek mythology. The adjective of Uranus is “Uranian”. The pronunciation of the name Uranus preferred among astronomers is /ˈjʊərənəs/, with stress on the first syllable as in Latin Ūranus, in contrast to /jʊˈreɪnəs/, with stress on the second syllable and a long a, though both are considered acceptable. The first pronunciation avoids crude jokes concerning “your anus” !! It does, however, leave open the possibility of “urine us.”

Consensus on the name was not reached until almost 70 years after the planet’s discovery. During the original discussions following discovery, Maskelyne asked Herschel to “do the astronomical world the faver to give a name to your planet, which is entirely your own, which we are so much obliged to you for the discovery of.” In response to Maskelyne’s request, Herschel decided to name the object Georgium Sidus (George’s Star), or the “Georgian Planet” in honor of his new patron, King George III. He explained this decision in a letter to Joseph Banks:

In the fabulous ages of ancient times the appellations of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were given to the Planets, as being the names of their principal heroes and divinities. In the present more philosophical era it would hardly be allowable to have recourse to the same method and call it Juno, Pallas, Apollo or Minerva, for a name to our new heavenly body. The first consideration of any particular event, or remarkable incident, seems to be its chronology: if in any future age it should be asked, when this last-found Planet was discovered? It would be a very satisfactory answer to say, ‘In the reign of King George the Third’.

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Herschel’s proposed name was not popular outside Britain, and alternatives were soon proposed. Astronomer Jérôme Lalande proposed that it be named Herschel in honor of its discoverer. Swedish astronomer Erik Prosperin proposed the name Neptune, which was supported by other astronomers who liked the idea to commemorate the victories of the British Royal Naval fleet in the course of the American Revolutionary War by calling the new planet even Neptune George III or Neptune Great Britain.

In a March 1782 treatise, Bode proposed Uranus. Bode argued that the name should follow ancient mythology so as not to stand out as different from the other planets, and that Uranus was an appropriate name, being the father of the first generation of the Titans. He also noted the elegance of the name in that just as Saturn was the father of Jupiter, the new planet should be named after the father of Saturn. In 1789, Bode’s Royal Academy colleague Martin Klaproth named his newly discovered element uranium in support of Bode’s choice. Ultimately, Bode’s suggestion became the most widely used, and became universal in 1850 when HM Nautical Almanac Office, the final holdout, switched from using Georgium Sidus to Uranus.

Uranus is called by a variety of names in other languages. In Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, its name is literally translated as the “sky king star” (天王星). In Thai, its official name is Dao Yurenat (ดาวยูเรนัส), as in English. Its other name in Thai is Dao Maritayu (ดาวมฤตยู, Star of Mṛtyu), after the Sanskrit word for “death”, Mrtyu (मृत्यु). In Mongolian, its name is Tengeriin Van (Тэнгэрийн ван), translated as “King of the Sky”, reflecting its namesake god’s role as the ruler of the heavens.

Observation of Uranus has taken leaps forward in recent decades courtesy of images from the Hubble telescope and Voyager. Its ring and moon system is complex, not to mention its multilayered and deep atmosphere. Well worth your further inquiry.

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I’ve been interested for some time in the cooking of Georgian England, which has perked the interest of contemporary amateurs. This site has a wealth of information about reconstructing old recipes from the eclectic MS collection known as The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies https://lostcookbook.wordpress.com/category/cookbook-recipes/18th-century-recipes/page/9/ . The recipes are difficult to interpret with any degree of historical accuracy because they are generally terse, and assume knowledge of the cooking skills of the day, without elaboration on them. Furthermore, the quantities are usually huge as for a large Georgian household, and need to be cut down. I note two important distinctions between Georgian and modern cooking. First, the distinction between main course dishes and desserts is blurry by modern standards. Sweeteners and fruits are common in meat dishes, and you’ll find vegetables such as carrots and spinach in desserts. This fact is not entirely anomalous given that we routinely eat carrot cake and sweet potato pie for dessert, and don’t especially mind ham with pineapple or pumpkin with marshmallows for a main course. Second, relatedly, Georgian cooks used a number of spices and flavorings for main dishes that are more conventionally used in desserts in the modern kitchen, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, or cloves. Their taste palate was also a bit more varied, frequently employing mace, rosewater, orange flower water, and the like, which are rarities in modern recipes.

There may be a hint of the Georgian cook in me. I use powdered mace (when I can find it), cloves, and allspice all the time when I want a rich gravy. Courtesy of my mentor Robert Carrier, I never make steak and kidney pie without a trace of cloves in the gravy. Try it – it’s a great addition. Don’t overdo it, though.

Here’s a recipe called “White Pease Soop” from the Unknown Ladies. First, we must be clear what “white pease” means. “Pease” is Middle English for “peas” which has survived (barely) in “pease pudding.” Note that this is a recipe for soup and not pudding, and the recipe specifically cautions about making it too thick. You’ll need to find white peas if you can. They’re now usually sold in Indian markets as safed vatana. Yellow splits will work as a substitute, although they have a different flavor.

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White Pease Soope

Take a pottle of good white pease & 5 qrts of water. Let yr pease be put in the water, cold, & let them boil till the are soft but dont break them at all. Then pour the broth from them very cleer & cut some salery small & som lettice & some spearmint & the ends of 2 o 3 leeks & some spinage & beets & some parsley. Cut all these very small & stew them in half a pnd of butter in a sauce pan, very soft. Then put them in yr pease broth & a qrt of strong gravy & a good deal of pounded mace & a little pepper. Give these a boil or 2 together, stirring them well & have some small rashers of bacon & bread fryed & laid in the bottom of your dish. Pour yr soope over them. You must take care yr pease be very clear. You must let it stew a very little while for it will be apt to grow too thick.

This recipe is not hard to follow, you just need to adjust the quantities down a good bit (a pottle (of peas) is half a gallon). Begin by soaking the peas overnight, then simmering them in double their quantity of fresh water until they are soft. Chop a mix of celery, lettuce, spearmint, leeks, spinach, beets and parsley (I’d go with equal amounts of each), and sauté in a heavy skillet in a generous amount of butter until soft. Combine the vegetables and peas in a saucepan with some good beef stock, and season generously with mace and black pepper. Do not allow the peas to break up, or thicken the soup. Fry some rashers of bacon until the fat is rendered, and fry bread slices in the fat. Transfer the fried bread and bacon to soup plates, and pour the soup over them.

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