Now you see it

March 28, 1997

We cannot let March end without pillorying the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council for this month's page of its 1997 calendar, which commemorates William Herschel's discovery of the planet Uranus in March 1781.

PPARC says that the discovery was "an accident". When someone congratulated Herschel on his luck in finding the planet, he pointed out in irritation that he had been engaged in a systematic "review" of the whole sky. If he had been called away on business that night, he said, he would simply have spotted the planet the next day instead.

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