A view of the planet Uranus from the Hubble Telescope. The white dot is its moon Ariel; the black dot is the moon’s shadow on the planet (solarsystem.nasa.gov).
Uranus was discovered by an amateur astronomer – William Herschel – on 13 March 1781. It was the first planet ever identified in recorded human history. In fact, Herschel first thought Uranus was a comet. In 1781 the idea that there was another planet beyond Saturn was unthinkable.
Sir William Herschel, discoverer of the planet Uranus (wikipedia.org).
In HPL’s time not much was known about Uranus. He mentions the planet a few times in his astronomical articles. For example in his Celestial Objects for All: An Easy Guide to Astronomical Observation with Opera, and Field Glasses (first published in 1907), HPL had one sentence for the planets Uranus and Neptune: “Both of these planets are visible as faint stars in opera glasses, yet their study seldom repays the observer” (from Collected Essays Volume 3: Science H.P. Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi, 2005). Later, HPL said Uranus was more than likely “a hot and molten semi-sun” (Asheville [N.C.] Gazette-News; 1915).
In HPL’s time Uranus was thought to have four moons. Moving outward these moons are Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon. Currently Uranus is thought to have 27 moons. Additionally, Uranus is called an ice-giant, since most of its mass is composed of a hot dense fluid of “icy” materials of water, methane, and ammonia with a small rocky core. The atmosphere of Uranus is composed primarily of hydrogen, helium and a small amount of methane (solarsyste.nasa.gov).
Uranus is about 1.8 billion miles, or 19.19 A.U. away from the sun. A day on Uranus is about 17 hours, while a “year” for Uranus is 84 Earth years. Similar to Jupiter, Uranus has a set of faint rings but in the case of Uranus the inner rings are narrow and dark while the outer rings are brightly colored. What is unique to Uranus is that it rotates on its side and thus spins horizontally and not vertically like the rest of the plants (solarsystem.nasa.gov).
A series of enhanced (infrared composites) views of Uranus from the Keck Telescope taken on 11 July 2004 (solarsystem.nasa.gov).
So where was the planet Uranus mentioned in HPL’s fiction? Well, I could not find any reference to this planet in any of HPL’s stories. There is a brief mention of the Greek God Uranus (God of the sky) in Poetry and the Gods, a story HPL co-wrote with Anna Helen Crofts but there is no mention of the planet Uranus.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for Clark Ashton Smith. I found no reference of the planet Uranus in any of Smith’s stories. A lot more is known about Uranus today than what was known in the days of HPL and Smith. However, that can be said about all of the planets. Why was Uranus ignored in the fiction of HPL and Smith? We may never know. Maybe there is no room for Uranus in a Lovecraftian solar system. Next time we visit Neptune. Thank you – Fred.