Q:

Who named the planets?

A:

Quick Answer

Various groups and people named the planets. The Romans named the five planets that are visible to the unaided eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The names are based on the planets' appearances and movements. The Roman names were adopted by European languages and cultures, and they eventually became standard.

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Full Answer

Uranus and Neptune were discovered before there was an established method for naming plants. They were called by several names until one eventually became standard. For example, William Herschel discovered Uranus and wanted to name it after King George II, but Johann Bode suggested the name Uranus, to match the naming conventions of the previous planets. It wasn't until 1850 that Uranus was commonly used as the name.

No one person named Neptune; rather, the two astronomers who discovered it accepted the name after it was proposed to them. Since then, the name Neptune has become the standard name.

Clyde Tombaugh discovered planet Pluto in 1930; a child from Oxford, England suggested the name. Astronomers recommended the name to the observatory staff.

Today, planets and all other celestial objects are named by the International Astronomical Union. When scientists discover new planetary objects or features, they may suggest names to the IAU. The IAU either accepts the proposed name or suggests a different one. Because experts consider the finding of new planets unlikely, the group concentrates on naming moons, planetary features and comets.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are the nicknames for the planets?

    A:

    Nicknames for the eight planets in the solar system are Swift Planet for Mercury, Morning Star and Evening Star for Venus, Blue Planet for Earth, Red Planet for Mars, Giant Planet for Jupiter, Ringed Planet for Saturn, Ice Giant for Uranus and Big Blue Planet for Neptune. Pluto was once considered a planet and had the nickname Ice Planet, but it is now classified as a dwarf planet.

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  • Q:

    How often do the planets align?

    A:

    The nine planets in this solar system somewhat align once every 500 years and are grouped within 30 degrees every one to three alignments. When astrologers describe the planets as being aligned, they do not necessarily mean that all of the planets line up on a perfectly straight line. The last alignment within 30 degrees occurred in 561 B.C., and the next alignment within 30 degrees takes place in 2854.

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  • Q:

    Why do planets shine?

    A:

    Planets shine because they reflect sunlight. Unlike stars, planets do not produce their own natural light. Their close proximity to Earth allows them to reflect enough sunlight to make many of them visible in the night sky.

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  • Q:

    Will all nine planets ever align?

    A:

    It is not possible for all nine planets to align perfectly because the axes around which they rotate tilt at different angles. The planets do end up within 90 degrees of each other about once every 200 years.

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