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Thread: How Did Uranus Get its Name?

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    How Did Uranus Get its Name?

    The period known as the Scientific Revolution (ca. 16th to the 18th century) was a time of major scientific upheaval. In addition to advances made in mathematics, chemistry, and the natural sciences, several major discoveries were made in the field of astronomy. Because of this, our understanding of the size and structure of the Solar […]
    The post How Did Uranus Get its Name? appeared first on Universe Today.


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  2. #2
    Other Names

    While Uranus remains the widely-recognized name for the Solar System’s seventh planet (and third gas giant), other cultures have recognized it by various other names. For example in traditional Chinese astronomy, it is known as Tianwángxing, which means literally “Sky King Star”.
    The same name is recognized in the Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese astronomical traditions. To the Aztecs (and other Nahuatl-speaking peoples), Uranus was known as “Ilhuicateocitlalli” – named after the word for “sky” (“ilhuicatl”) – and also as “Xiuhteuccitlalli”, the Aztec god of fire, day, and heat. Many other cultures recognized Uranus in their mythological traditions and assigned various names.
    The above would indicate a problem with the following quote from the article:

    Consider the discovery of Uranus ....
    Not to put too fine a point on it.

  3. #3
    Also, it appears from the article that it was necessary in the West for Uranus to be discovered only after the use of a telescope. How did these other traditions know of the body when they did not have telescopes?
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2017-Mar-21 at 03:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Also, it appears from the article that it was necessary in the West for Uranus to be discovered only after the use of a telescope. How did these other traditions know of the body when they did not have telescopes?
    It can be visible to the naked eye. I realize it's a bit odd, but by "discovered" in this case it seems to mean that Herschel "discovered" that it was not a fixed star. It seems that he initially thought it was a comet, but that others realized it was a planet.
    As above, so below

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    It can be visible to the naked eye. I realize it's a bit odd, but by "discovered" in this case it seems to mean that Herschel "discovered" that it was not a fixed star. It seems that he initially thought it was a comet, but that others realized it was a planet.
    So discovered as a planet is the better description? While others discovered the object, identification as a planet came via Herschel's initial observations, which were later refined by others. So much so that Herschel was happy enough to adopt them despite his previous conviction it was a comet - is that a fair summary?

    It answers both my posts if it is.

  6. #6
    As a matter of interest, how do we know if these other traditions thought of it as a planet, a star or whatever else?

    I can't imagine that such a question was high on the Spanish's agenda when they were in process of conquering them. Afterwards, when the Aztec Empire was vanquished, was probably too late to be finding out.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2017-Mar-21 at 05:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    As a matter of interest, how do we know if these other traditions thought of it as a planet, a star or whatever else?

    I can't imagine that such a question was high on the Spanish's agenda when they were in process of conquering them. Afterwards, when the Aztec Empire was vanquished, was probably too late to be finding out.
    I think you're correct about that. I think that with all "discoveries," it really means "the first recorded discovery." We can't really know for sure that nobody every climbed Mt. Everest before Edmund Hillary--maybe some hardy soul climbed it long ago but never recorded it.
    As above, so below

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think you're correct about that. I think that with all "discoveries," it really means "the first recorded discovery." We can't really know for sure that nobody every climbed Mt. Everest before Edmund Hillary--maybe some hardy soul climbed it long ago but never recorded it.
    I know this is stepping into the realms of speculation, however, this part of the quote:

    and also as “Xiuhteuccitlalli”, the Aztec god of fire, day, and heat.
    indicates to me the probability the Aztecs did not think of it as just another fixed star but something more local.

    If true, or likely, then one marvels at their ability to deduce this without the use of a telescope.

    I want to make clear at this point that I have zilch interest in modern day Mayan mystical thinking.

    For example in traditional Chinese astronomy, it is known as Tianwángxing, which means literally “Sky King Star”.
    This, on the other hand, indicates as a probability that the Chinese did not make a distinction. Added to that, I'm guessing because the Chinese are known to be pretty good record keepers historically, if they thought of it as a planet, there would be some record.
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2017-Mar-21 at 09:13 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    This, on the other hand, indicates as a probability that the Chinese did not make a distinction. Added to that, I'm guessing because the Chinese are known to be pretty good record keepers historically, if they thought of it as a planet, there would be some record.
    Just for clarification, in the case of the Chinese word, it is a translation of the Western word. The Chinese did not use that name before the 17th century.
    As above, so below

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Just for clarification, in the case of the Chinese word, it is a translation of the Western word. The Chinese did not use that name before the 17th century.
    Yes, I was wondering about the validity of the translation. There are other factors also. For example, even among record keeping cultures, there still exists a tradition of elites to hand down information verbally. I believe this occurred in Venice during the Renaissance for the specific purpose of keeping information away from competition of other states. That didn't solve the problem of poaching individuals or "head hunting", but slowed the process down considerably.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Just for clarification, in the case of the Chinese word, it is a translation of the Western word. The Chinese did not use that name before the 17th century.
    And, as a matter of interest again, how on earth did you know that? It's as curious as the Aztec problem - almost.



    \

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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    And, as a matter of interest again, how on earth did you know that? It's as curious as the Aztec problem - almost.

    \
    I guess I had heard it before. But in any case, the names of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are all literal translations, lord of the sky, lord of the sea, lord of the underworld, in Japanese as well as Chinese, so it's fairly clear that they are translations. I checked it on the Japanese Wiki page just to be sure.

    Interestingly, the names of the major planets and the days of the week are the same in Japanese as in English, I.e Moon day, Mars day, Mercury day, but they are not imported; rather, they are from either Babylonia or Sumer, I forgot which.
    As above, so below

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    To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical about the Aztecs, and would be inclined to see if it is really true. One of the names they use (in the modern Aztec language) is apparently lord of the sky, which sounds suspiciously like a translation. It would seem strange for the Aztecs to have given such a name to a 5-magnitude star, and weirder that Herschel would have chosen the same name by accident.
    As above, so below

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical about the Aztecs, and would be inclined to see if it is really true. One of the names they use (in the modern Aztec language) is apparently lord of the sky, which sounds suspiciously like a translation. It would seem strange for the Aztecs to have given such a name to a 5-magnitude star, and weirder that Herschel would have chosen the same name by accident.
    Any theories explaining this weird coincidence? This is becoming curiouser and curiouser.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    Any theories explaining this weird coincidence? This is becoming curiouser and curiouser.
    My guess is that probably the Aztecs did not know about Uranus in ancient times and that the word didn't enter their language until after Henschel discovered it, so that it is a translation.
    As above, so below

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    Is there any persuasive evidence to the contrary -- that these Nahuatl phrases were applied to Uranus before the planet was named Uranus?
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    ATM is so 20th Century.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    Is there any persuasive evidence to the contrary -- that these Nahuatl phrases were applied to Uranus before the planet was named Uranus?
    That would be interesting to see!

  18. #18
    Let's play with the numbers a little - see if they indicate anything.

    The Spanish campaign began in February 1519, and was declared victorious on August 13, 1521, when a coalition army of Spanish forces and native Tlaxcalan warriors led by Hernán Cortés and Xicotencatl the Younger captured the emperor Cuauhtemoc and Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire.
    Running up against

    The earliest definite sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed observed it at least six times, cataloguing it as 34 Tauri. The French astronomer Pierre Lemonnier observed Uranus at least twelve times between 1750 and 1769,[20]including on four consecutive nights.

    Sir William Herschel observed Uranus on March 13, 1781 from the garden of his house at 19 New King Street in Bath, Somerset, England (now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy),[21] and initially reported it (on April 26, 1781) as a comet.[22] Herschel "engaged in a series of observations on the parallax of the fixed stars",[23] using a telescope of his own design.
    plus


    The object was soon universally accepted as a new planet. By 1783, Herschel acknowledged this to Royal Society president Joseph Banks: "By the observation of the most eminent Astronomers in Europe it appears that the new star, which I had the honour of pointing out to them in March 1781, is a Primary Planet of our Solar System.
    plus

    Consensus on the name was not reached until almost 70 years after the planet's discovery.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranus

    There is a sizable gap between the fall of the Aztec Empire and the West's recognition of Uranus in name.

    It is possible that despite the fall of the Empire that the language continued on organically with the potential to absorb other cultures' discoveries and ideas.

    One question that comes to mind is: did the people, who this language may have subsisted in, show even the slightest interest in astronomy or astrology after the fall of the Empire in 1521?
    Last edited by Canis Lupus; 2017-Mar-22 at 02:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think you're correct about that. I think that with all "discoveries," it really means "the first recorded discovery." We can't really know for sure that nobody every climbed Mt. Everest before Edmund Hillary--maybe some hardy soul climbed it long ago but never recorded it.
    Every spring when the climbing season starts I hold out hope that this is the year someone will find Andrew Irvine's body with his lost camera.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    It is possible that despite the fall of the Empire that the language continued on organically with the potential to absorb other cultures' discoveries and ideas.
    Yes.

    Wikipedia: Nahuatl

    Nahuatl, known historically as Aztec, is a language or group of languages of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Varieties of Nahuatl are spoken by an estimated 1.5 million Nahua peoples, most of whom live in central Mexico.
    Online English-Nahuatl dictionary: Internet

    Mātlatzālantli
    0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 ...
    ATM is so 20th Century.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    It is possible that despite the fall of the Empire that the language continued on organically with the potential to absorb other cultures' discoveries and ideas.
    Sure it's possible. In fact, it happened. Actually I don't think it's that common for a language to disappear when the land is taken over politically by some other entity. Tagalog and a bunch of other languages are still widely spoken in the Philippines, and Hindi and other languages of India didn't cease when the British took over. People keep using their native language in their daily lives.

    Quote Originally Posted by Canis Lupus View Post
    One question that comes to mind is: did the people, who this language may have subsisted in, show even the slightest interest in astronomy or astrology after the fall of the Empire in 1521?
    Why wouldn't they? Or are you saying that indigenous peoples are not interested in astronomy?
    As above, so below

  22. #22
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    And by the way, Nahuatl has a word for Pluto as well, which nobody knew about until recently: Mictlāntēuccītlalli. But it makes sense. Nahuatl is taught in schools in Mexico, and they probably teach astronomy, and Pluto used to be considered a planet so it would likely have been in their textbooks, so they needed a name for it. Also, just incidentally, I was looking at a book online and it says that after the conquest, the Franciscans set up schools to teach people how to write in their native languages (in the Roman alphabet).

    So nothing really mysterious here.
    As above, so below

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