The planet Uranus has 27 known and named moons, the first two of which (Titania and Oberon) were discovered by the man who discovered Uranus, Sir William Hershel, in 1787. Although Herschel believed he had seen as many as 6 moons and possibly a ring, nothing more was confirmed for another 50 years when the next two moons were discovered by William Lassell, which he named Ariel and Umbriel. Lassell deviated slightly from Herschel’s naming tradition and found Umbriel in Alexander Pope’s poem the Rape of the Lock. Since then all additional moons have been named for characters from either Shakespeare or Pope.
First, moons named after characters from 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
Next, moons named from characters from Pope:
The Rape of the Lock :
After the two moons discovered in the 1850s, another moon wasn’t discovered for another century, in 1948. The remaining almost two dozen moons were not discovered until the Voyager 2 flyby in 1986.
Learn more about the plays (including plots, characters and full texts) at www.shakespeare-online.com. You can find Alexander Pope at www.poemhunter.com. You can also click on any of the links above for links to wikipedia.
Image of Uranus’s moons to scale courtesy NASA, in the public domain.