There are 27 moons on the planet Uranus, out of which 25 are relatively named after the characters from the works of Shakespeare. And it is not just Uranus that has got the special trait, on the planet Mercury the craters present are named after famous personalities (artists and musicians) like Bach, John Lennon and Disney as well!
The first two moons discovered on Uranus’s moons were called Titania and Oberon, who are the characters of the king and the queen of the fairies in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ uncovered by William Herschel in 1787.
There was a pattern that whoever discovered a celestial body had the right of naming it.
John Herschel, Herschel’s son was a contemporary of William Lassell. It was Lassel who named two moons of Uranus in 1851, so John may have a hand in the naming and choose to name it so just like his father. Lassell upon discovering the moons named it Ariel and Umbriel. Ariel is a character in Pope and Shakespeare’s work and Ariel is a figure in the Alexander Pope poem.
American Astronomer Gerard Kupier discovered the fifth moon of Uranus, naming it the Miranda, after a character in ‘The Tempest’.
NASA’s Voyager 2, found 10 moons around the Uranus, they went back to their genes naming it Puck from the ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The remaining nine came from the other works of Shakespeare: Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia and Rosalind. The last Belinda is from the work of Pope.
Two more moons were discovered in 1990’s by two young astronomers, Brett Gladman and JJ Kavelars, using a technique from the images that made faint celestial bodies visible, taken from the Palomar Observatory in San Diego. Named the Caliban, as it emerged out of the dark and the Sycorax in reference to ‘The Tempest’.
The last two moons were discovered years later, named again after ‘The Tempest’ characters – the drunken butler and drunken jester, Stephano and Trinculo.
It can be clear that the Herschel family set the precedent of naming moons after Shakespeare’s characters and the other scientists simply followed the ‘fun tradition’.
Shakespeare’s iconic work Romeo and Juliet had a question and a very vital one. Juliet, the central character wanted to know, “What’s in a name?”
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