The brightest planets in the sky have been named from ancient times. The scientific names are taken from the names given by the Romans; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Our own planet is usually named the Earth, or the equivalent in the language being spoken (for instance, two astronomers speaking French would call it la Terre). However, it is only recently in human history that it has been thought of as a planet. The Earth, when viewed as a planet, is sometimes also called by its Latin name Terra (some older science fiction uses the alternate Tellus).
At least two more bodies were discovered later, and called planets:
- Uranus, discovered by William Herschel in 1781
- Neptune, discovered by Johann Gottfried Galle in 1846 (based on predictions by Urbain Le Verrier and John Couch Adams)
All of these planets were given names from Greek or Roman myth, to match the ancient planet names. However, this was only after some controversy. For example, Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781, and originally called it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) in honour of King George III of the United Kingdom. French astronomers began calling it Herschel before German Johann Bode proposed the name Uranus, after the Greek and Roman god. The name "Uranus" did not come into common usage until around 1850.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the major body recognized by astronomers and other scientists worldwide as the naming authority for astronomical bodies.
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