Miranda, Caliban, Prospero, and Ferdinand: the moons of Uranus read like the cast of The Tempest. Why is that? The practice of naming planets and stars goes all the way back to Galileo. For centuries, the rule was: you find it, you name it. But that doesn’t completely explain how William Shakespeare’s characters ended up in outer space, circling the planet Uranus. According to Derek Sears of NASA's Ames Research Center, the reason is simple. “I do think most astronomers have some sort of a huge romantic streak,” he says. Of course, an astronomer can call a discovery 181-P, but isn’t it just more romantic to say Sycorax or Juliet? After all, as Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name?”
This story was made possible with support from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library.
The Planets, Op.32 : II. Venus, the Bringer of PeaceArtist: Gustav Holst and The London Symphony OrchestraAlbum: Holst Conducts the Planets : Seven Pieces for Large OrchestraLabel: Mach60 Music
Symphony No. 17 in C Major: I. Allegro by Frederick William Herschel -Artist: London Mozart Players
Brahms: Scherzo In E Flat Minor, Op.4Artist: Wilhelm KempffAlbum: Schumann / Brahms: Complete 1950s Solo RecordingsLabel: DG
Begin the BeguineArtist: Artie Shaw and His OrchestraAlbum: Begin the BeguineLabel: RCA Bluebird