William Herschel

William Herschel was born Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel ( Hannover , Germany , November 15 of 1738 – Slough , Berkshire , August 25 of 1822 ), astronomer and musician German, discoverer of the planet Uranus and numerous other celestial objects, and also father of the astronomer John Herschel .

Music and War

Friedrich W. Herschel was born of the marriage of the military musician Herschel and Anna Ilse Issak Moritzen. Influenced by his parents, Friedrich studied music and became a competent interpreter oboe, joining his father and his brother Jacob in the band’s Foot Guards Regiment.

In 1757 he participated in the Battle of Hastenbeck between France and Hanover during the Seven Years War , and more than 5,000 people who witnessed caused him a deep impression, which led him to leave his native country and settle down with his brother in England . Jacob decided to return to Hannover after two years, but Friedrich Wilhelm (whom the English called now “William”, a name that would accompany him forever) chose to stay.

The young Herschel deepened in England to study music: professor became first organist at Halifax ( 1765 ) and the following year was as conductor in Bath .

In 1772 came his sister Caroline Herschel to live with him in Bath . That’s when the episode occurred that would change the life of William: 10 May 1773 bought a book (the “Astronomy” Ferguson) and forever love of science of the heavens.
Observation and construction

Men eager for knowledge and endowed with great dexterity, Herschel began from the beginning to calculate, design and build their own telescopes. Less than a year after buying the book Ferguson, Herschel calculated and polished and the most perfect and powerful mirrors around the world, because he understood immediately that the future depended on reflecting telescopes rather than the refractor .

While building the instruments observed the heavens. As early as February 1774 and had observed the Orion Nebula , discovered in 1610 .

On 13 March 1781 Herschel observed an unregistered object that at first glance looked like a comet : carefully studying it soon got really determine that it was a new planet , Uranus
Uranus (photo by Voyager 2, NASA).

Herschel had discovered the object testing his newly built telescope reflector of 152 mm. He had pointed to the constellation Gemini and observed a star that was not supposed to be there. On the strength of his instrument, seemed to possess a planetary disk (hence the confusion with a comet ). Shone with a yellow and moved slowly.

Watching him night after night, Herschel concluded that he had discovered the seventh planet of the Solar System . Asked other astronomers to confirm the diagnosis, and all agreed with him: there was a new planet located at twice the distance of Saturn :
The name issue

Naming an astronomical object is the privilege of the discoverer: gallantly, Herschel named the planet with the funny name Georgium Sidus (“Planet Jorge”), in a bizarre homage to King George III of England who had just lost all his possessions in North America for U.S. independence 1776 .

“Planet Jorge” and continued to call until well into the nineteenth century, despite the opposition of the astronomer Johann Elert Bode , who insisted that Herschel should continue with the mythological tradition. If the names of the planets were contiguous Mars , Jupiter and Saturn , the newcomer was baptized Uranus . Bode justified in their view that the genealogical sequence should continue: grandchild, parent, grandparent. The great grandfather (father of Saturn ) was Uranus , which properly personified the starry sky.

Curiously, both Bode insisted on making Uranus rename one referred to in the Convention, as he used to baptize their discoveries with far more extravagant names “George”. Thus, certain constellations called “The Cat”, “The Chemical Apparatus”, “Hot Air Balloon” and “Typesetting Office”. The extreme case came to baptize Bode a constellation with the name “The Honors Federico” in honor of the emperor of Germany . The French astronomer Lalande proposed, meanwhile, baptize the planet as “Herschel”, although the idea that remained was that of Bode.

Although it is said that in 1827 the name of Uranus and was very common in England , until 1850 the “Nautical Almanac” British kept calling the planet “Jorge” in their ephemeris astronomy. Finally the astronomer John Couch Adams , managed to convince the editors of the Almanac to trade him for the current name.
Past observations of Uranus
Caroline Herschel, sister and assistant wise.

As there is the fact that, under certain conditions, Uranus is visible to the naked eye, is very likely to have been spotted with the naked eye in the prehistory or ancient , a fact which has not been registered. Galileo observed it in 1612 during a conjunction with Jupiter, writing it down as a Galilean satellite of the latter. Also the Astronomer Royal Sir John Flamsteed cataloged in 1690 Neptune as a star in the constellation of Taurus that was called 34 Tauri. Some years later the French Le Monier observed Uranus for eight full nights, but never happened to notice his planetary motion. Eighteen other astronomers also noted the planet in their catalogs, but always mistaking him for a fixed star. These observations served throughout the twentieth century to better determine the orbit of Neptune.
deep space objects
The Eskimo Nebula in the constellation Gemini, discovered by Herschel in 1797.

King George Herschel awarded for his discovery of Uranus appointing him to the Royal Society of Sciences. Thanks to the salary he sought this appointment, the astronomer could abandon music for a living and devote himself exclusively to his science. Effected more and better observations (always assisted by his sister Caroline, whom he had conveyed his interest in astronomy ), and began to build increasingly powerful tools and evolved.

In 1782 and held the title of Astronomer Royal Court, when a friend he had met at the Royal Society, William Watson , gave him a Messier catalog , which stimulated interest by Herschel nebulae and clusters , collectively called ” deep space objects . ” In August of 1782 , Herschel began investigating the objects described in the book with their telescopes, more powerful than himself Charles Messier , author of the catalog, never possessed. By September, he was convinced that the book contained only a fraction of deep space objects existing in reality, so he decided to pursue a thorough, extensive and systematic search in all parts of the sky visible from his observatory. The process began on 23 October 1783 , with the help of Caroline and using her refractor of 157 magnification and field of 15 ‘and 4′ of arc. Five days later he made ​​his first discovery: NGC 7184 , a small galaxy in the constellation Aquarius of magnitude 11.2. In his own catalog called “H II.1.” This discovery followed by others, at such a rate that can only be attributed to the superb quality of their instruments in a year and a half discovered 1,000 new deep space objects, the list published in his own catalog 1786 . In 1789 he had discovered another 1,000, and 500 more in 1802 . Sometime later added another 14. Thus, in a span of less than two decades, Herschel discovered 2514 new deep space objects, among which include globular clusters , nebulae and galaxies .
Important discoveries

In 1783 Herschel discovered that the sun was not quiet as had always believed: comparing observations of different stars relatively “fixed”, showed that our moves, pulling the Earth and the rest of his entourage planetarium, to the star Lambda Herculis. Also baptized the point to which the movement is directed as Solar Apex .

Four years later, he discovered Titania and Oberon , two moons of Uranus .
Family life

In 1788 , William Herschel married the widow Mary Baldwin Pitt, who had been married to the powerful London merchant John Pitt. Mrs. Pitt had lost her first husband two years before I met Herschel. In 1792 she gave birth to the only son of the astronomer (who, running time, would follow his father), John Herschel , in Slough , England .
A giant telescope
The “monster” of Herschel.

After working steadily for two years, William completed in 1789 the construction of its largest and most powerful telescope: a giant with an aperture of 1.2 m. I pointed to the night sky for the first time on August 28 and in a few minutes discovered the sixth moon of Saturn , Enceladus . On September 17, first detected the seventh moon, Mimas , which gives an idea of the extraordinary optical quality of this huge instrument. The Herschel 1.2 m mark remained as the largest telescope in the world for over fifty years, only to be defeated by the “Leviathan” of Lord Rosse , who possessed a mirror diameter of 1.98 m.

But the giant was difficult to operate, so Herschel still preferred his old reliable 18-inch and he had discovered thousands of galaxies in the past. Returning he always had time even to discover the “spiral nebulae”, although some attribute this finding to Lord Rosse .
Reconstruction of large Herschel telescope at the Royal Observatory of Madrid.

Herschel telescope reflector built another large, 60 cm in diameter, was installed next to the main building of the Royal Observatory of Madrid , designed by Juan de Villanueva , on a small hill next to Current Retiro Park. Destroyed in 1808 by Napoleon’s troops, was recently rebuilt to size and can be visited at the Observatory.
Other discoveries and theories
Model of the Milky Way as Herschel (with the Sun in the center).

William Herschel not only produced the best telescopes of his time, discovered planets, moons, comets and more than 2,500 galaxies and nebulae and realized that the sun leads to Hercules : also dabbled in all branches of science known and unknown- , inaugurating even some new.

Studied the motion of the stars, designed a very accurate model of the Milky Way based on their statistics on populations of stars in each sector of the sky, presented ideas about the nature of the nebulae and laid a primitive theory of “universes- islands ” which had been advanced by the philosopher Immanuel Kant .

Done all that, still had time to delve into the physical and analyze the nature of heat, discovering infrared sunlight passing by a prism and measuring the temperature recorded by a thermometer beyond the red region of the visible spectrum. The thermometer showed the existence of a form of invisible light red beyond.
Herschel and Napoleon
The Herschel telescope (first from the left) in the Canaries.

In 1801 Herschel traveled to Paris , where he met the renowned French scientists Pierre Simon Laplace and the aging Messier .

Having Napoleon of the presence of these three celebrities gathered, received in his official office and spent long hours with them inquiring about their discoveries. In 1806 Napoleon imposed the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Death of Herschel

William Herschel died on August 25, 1822 at his home in Slough , at the advanced age of 84. As a curiosity it is noteworthy that the planet discovered by, Uranus takes 84 years to bear its orbital period, so Uranus being born and died in the same position. He worked until the last moments with a medium aperture telescope, as the greatest he built stopped using it in 1815 . After his death, the family celebrated a requiem mass inside the tube.

When William died, his sister Caroline left England and returned to Hannover . His wife Mary remained in the family home until his death, which occurred ten years later.

John Herschel in turn became an astronomer as renowned as his father, and during the eleven years following the death of that continued improving, correcting and deepening the magnificent William observations.
Posthumous Tributes
Apollo 12 left descending the great Herschel crater.

Science has honored William Herschel in many different ways: for example, in the backyard of Slough has erected a monument, located in the very spot where William rode his huge telescope.

A lunar crater 40 km in diameter received its name in 1935 , like a crater on the moon Mimas in 1982 . The asteroid discovered in 1960 by J. Schubart has been christened “2000HERSCHEL”, and also one of the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes located in the Canary Islands , Spain .

Finally, the space observatory launched by the ESA on May 14, 2009, for observing the universe in the infrared, has been named Herschel Space Observatory . With its mirror 3.5 m in diameter is the largest space telescope ever built.

His son John Herschel takes the Moon a crater 304 km in diameter, and another is named Caroline, who patiently for decades and helped him with his observations.

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