This is Uranus, my favorite planet and the “ruler” of my astrological sign, Aquarius! Uranus is the 6th planet from the sun and one of the largest of our solar system, a cold, icy planet with peculiar rings that ushers the observer away from the inner planets into the farther regions of the solar system. Just like many of our beloved constellations, this planet is named after a Greek mythological figure, Ouranos (the heavens), who was the grandfather of Zeus and original companion to Gaia, our mother earth. However, unlike the constellations on which the Greeks bestowed their stories, permanently fixing names such as Orion and Cassiopeia into our skies, Uranus was not named by the Greeks. In fact, it was not even known to them. Uranus remained unknown to humans until the late 18th century when it was discovered by the German-British astronomer William Herschel. Uranus was never discovered before the modern age because it is so distant from the sun, orbiting at about 20 AU. In contrast, Saturn, the 6th planet from the sun, is only about 10 AU away. It took the advances of modern technology, which created powerful telescopes which the Greeks would have envied, to find this distant planet (check out a neat time-line of the development of modern telescopes here. They look amazing!).
Because of this modernity, Uranus’ association with the astrological sign of Aquarius is a modern development for the ancient practice. In pre-modern times, Saturn was the planet which ruled the sign of the water-bearer, and many astrologers still associate this ancient planet with Aquarius, even though Uranus has largely taken over the role. Physically, Uranus matches characteristics of what astrologers thought described Aquarians: It’s expansive and the position of its rings makes it look unique and creative, but it’s also cold and distant. The change from Saturn to Uranus shows how modern astrologers have tried to adapt to scientific discoveries in the heavens, a flexibility which seems natural compared to the ease at which other ancient ways of thought have approached the multitude of life-changing and extraordinary modern discoveries of science. Uranus was always there, it was just waiting to be discovered! Thank you William Herschel for discovering this beautiful member of our solar system and paving the way to discover the other outer planets!