The Shakespearean Moons of Uranus

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Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 15

"O, brave new world
That has such people in 't!"
The Tempest (5:1:217)

Sometimes it seems you can hear or see traces of Shakespeare just about anywhere on Earth. But how about around the planet Uranus, which had not even been discovered in Shakespeare's time?

In this celestial edition, Rebecca Sheir, host of the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series, traces the quirky, fascinating, and little-known tale of the 27 known moons of Uranus—nearly all of which have Shakespearean names.

Through the voices of historians, actors, and modern scientists, "Brave New Worlds" tells the story behind that curious fact, starting with the planet's discovery in 1781 and continuing through Voyager 2's flyby in 1986 and the discoveries of still more moons in recent years.

From the Uranian moons Ariel, Oberon, Titania, and Miranda, to Ferdinand, Caliban, and Cordelia (to name only a few), join us on a literary-scientific trip to the outer solar system you won't soon forget.

Featured in this podcast:

  • Michael Crowe is an emeritus professor of liberal arts at Notre Dame University.
  • Brett Gladman is a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
  • Lisa Grossman is a writer for New Scientist magazine.
  • Michael Hoskin is a professor at Cambridge University.
  • JJ Kevelaars is an astronomer at the National Research Council Canada.
  • Tobias Owen is a professor at the Institute for Astronomy associated with the University of Hawaii.
  • Derek Sears is a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center.
  • Scott Sheppard is a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

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From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. © November 19, 2014. Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.

Written and produced for the Folger Shakespeare Library by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. Edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington.

We had an enormous amount of help gathering material for this podcast. In particular, we would like to thank Jennifer Blue of the US Geological Survey, Bradford Smith of the International Astronomical Union, Dale Cruikshank at NASA's Ames Research Center, and David DeVorkin, senior curator of astronomy and space sciences at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Esther French and Georgianna Ziegler of the Folger Shakespeare Library provided additional assistance.

Voice recreations were performed by Anthony Reuben and Elena Burger. We had technical help from Jean Cochran and Britta Greene.


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Want more? Browse our full list of Shakespeare Unlimited episodes. Listen on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, and NPR One.