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THE history of Uranus, the most distant known planet of our solar system, in the various characters of fixed star, comet, and planet, which at different periods of time have been assigned to it, is no less remarkable than are some of the phenomena which, despite of its excessive elongation, observation has been able to detect in regard to it. Previous to that train of discoveries which terminated in adding this to the number of known bodies of our system, through a period so long that 'the traditions of man ran not to the contrary,' Saturn was supposed to mark the utmost bound of that system. This was taken as an admitted fact, from the time that planetary distances first were measured; and when the telescope had revealed the singular appendage of rings to that planet, these were supposed to yield some support to the opinion that this body had its orbit upon the confines of that region of space through which our sun could bear sway, by the power of its attraction. The wildest vagaries of nature, it was believed had been exhibited here, in arrangements altogether unknown elsewhere, for the purpose of more pointedly attracting the attention of mortals who should witness the fact, and thereby fixing the bounds beyond which they need not seek. Such, if not in words, are by apparently just inference, the views that have been more or less entertained, along with the other almost countless opinions to which credence has, in past times, been given. The indefinite distance, then, from the orbit of Saturn to the fixed stars, was regarded as a realm that, however extensive, could yield no harvest in reward for the labor which science might bestow within it, and therefore it was held unprofitable, in all respects.
The fixed stars which, so far as we know, were never supposed by any of the human family, to belong to our solar system, were objects of the most anxious attention, in the earliest period of the history of our race. They constituted the calendar of primitive man; and served not only to indicate to him the several seasons, and other necessary divisions of the year, but they were also his time-keeper by night, as the sun was by day, and pointed out to him the lapse of hours, by their apparent motions in the heavens. This early discovery of the utility of the stars, in the common purposes of life, led to the division of them into groups or constellations, each of which received a name : and in addition to this, individual stars, that by their