Although Uranus is visible to the naked eye, just like the classical planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — it was long mistaken as a star because of the planet’s dimness and slow orbit. British astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus accidentally on March 13, 1781, with his telescope while surveying all stars down to those about 10 times dimmer than can be seen by the naked eye. One "star" seemed different, and within a year Uranus was shown to follow a planetary orbit.


Many names were proposed for the new planet, including "Hypercronius" ("above Saturn"), "Minerva" (the Roman goddess of wisdom), and "Herschel." To flatter King George III of England, Herschel himself offered "Georgium Sidus" ("The Georgian Planet") as a name, but that idea was unpopular outside of England and George's native Hanover. German astronomer Johann Bode, who detailed Uranus' orbit, gave the planet its ultimate name.