October 24th, 1851 – The Moons of Uranus

Today-In-History

On October 24th, 1851, British astronomer William Lassell discovered the moons Umbriel, and Ariel, orbiting Uranus.

Moons of Uranus

Lassell made his fortunes as a beer brewer, which enabled him to indulge his interest in astronomy. He built an observatory at his house “Starfield” in West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool. There he had a 24-inch (610 mm) reflector telescope, for which he pioneered the use of an equatorial mount for easy tracking of objects as the Earth rotates. He ground and polished the mirror himself, using equipment he constructed. The observatory was later (1854) moved further out of Liverpool, to Bradstone.

William_Lassell

William Lassell (June 18th, 1799 – October 5th, 1880)

In 1846 Lassell discovered Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, just 17 days after the discovery of Neptune itself by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle. In 1848 he independently co-discovered Hyperion, a moon of Saturn. In 1851 he discovered Ariel and Umbriel, two moons of Uranus.

When Queen Victoria visited Liverpool in 1851, Lassell was the only local she specifically requested to meet.

In 1855, he built a 48-inch (1,200 mm) telescope, which he installed in Malta because of the observing conditions that were better than in often overcast England. On his return to the UK after several years in Malta he moved to Maidenhead and operated his 24-inch (610 mm) telescope in an observatory there.

He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1849, and served as its president for two years starting in 1870. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1849 and won their Royal Medal in 1858.

Lassell died in Maidenhead in 1880. Upon his death, he left a fortune of £80,000 (roughly equivalent to 8.8 million American dollars by today’s standards). His telescope was presented to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The crater Lassell on the Moon, a crater on Mars, the asteroid 2636 Lassell and a ring of Neptune are named in his honor.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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