September 23, 1846

Neptune: Roman God of the Sea

4-cent Atlantic Cable stamp
The 4-cent Atlantic Cable Centenary stamp was issued August 15, 1958. Roman God of the Sea Neptune is featured at left with his iconic trident.

Once Neptune was recognized as a planet and not just a star, it triggered an earthly battle among scientists. Who really discovered it? And what should it be named? Francois Arago, Leverrier’s teacher, wanted recognition for his French protégé, and even suggested that the planet be named after Le Verrier.

It was agreed that Adams’s highly coincidental work could not be ignored, so both he and Leverrier are credited with the discovery of Neptune. However, Arago and Leverrier did succeed in winning some points for the French; two of Neptune’s rings are named after them. The planet itself was named after the Roman god of the sea, inspired by its color and watery surface. Close-up photos of Neptune were taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989.