Why are Uranus’ moons named after Shakespearean characters?

We find out how the ice giant’s moons got their names

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The moons of Uranus take their names from characters in the plays of Alexander Pope and William Shakespeare

The moons of Uranus take their names from characters in the plays of Alexander Pope and William Shakespeare

Asked Kerry-Anne Berwick

There’s no rule saying that they can’t be. When astronomers discovered moons of a particular planet, they usually tried to match moon names to planet names in a mythological sense. For instance, Neptune’s moons are named after other sea gods. In the case of Uranus though – its moons are not named in relation to the ancient Greek diety from which it gets its name at all.

It was William Herschel who discovered the ice giant, but it was his son John Herschel who first named the moons – mainly after spirits from the writings of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. When more moons were discovered by Gerard Kuiper and William Lassell, and more recently by Voyager 2 and modern telescopes, they continued to be named accordingly.

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