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Portrait of William Herschel
NASA/JPL, California Institute of Technology.

William Herschel

William Herschel was born in Germany and lived in England while he worked as an astronomer. He lived between 1738-1822. He built reflecting telescopes of high magnification, that let him observe the universe with greater detail.

Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. He also advanced our understanding of nebulae, the greenish, hazy clouds that surround dying stars. Herschel identified about 2,500 nebulae whereas only 100 nebulae had been found before him. He also founded stellar astronomy, the study of the region beyond our solar system. In fact, he found more than 800 binary stars, pairs of stars that orbit a common center of gravity.

At a time when scientific study focused on the planets and comets, Herschel suggested that the clusters of stars visible in the night sky were actually separate galaxies, similar to our own Milky Way.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF