Uranus is the 7th planet from the Sun and you’ll need a telescope to find it as the planet cannot be seen with the naked eye. While it intrigues scientists, most people don’t share the same fascination in Uranus. However, here’s 20 facts about Uranus that we think you’ll find interesting:
Uranus is the third-largest planet in our solar system. It has an equatorial diameter of 51,000 km and a polar diameter of 49,900 km. It has a mass of 8.68 x 1025 kg. That last figure isn’t going to make a lot of sense to most people – so to make things simple, that’s roughly 15 Earths. This is the fourth largest mass in the solar system and is the second least dense planet.
Uranus is a gas giant. It has an icy and rocky core, an upper layer constituting hydrogen and helium, and an upper atmosphere with water, methane, and ammonia. The upper atmosphere is responsible for the planet’s blue colour.
Uranus can reach temperatures of -224 degrees Celsius, making it the coldest planet in the solar system. Neptune is even further from the Sun than Uranus and has the coldest average temperatures. But at its coldest, it still doesn’t get as cold as Uranus.
This chilly planet has 13 rings made up of ice, dust, and space debris. These rings are not only dark but quite small too, which is why you’d be forgiven if you had no idea that Uranus has rings in the first place. Scientists believe that the rings are relatively young.
Photo taken by Voyager 2 in 1986
The wind on Uranus can reach supersonic speeds of 900 km per hour!
Astronomers have found that Uranus has 27 moon; but there could be more. Most of these satellites are small. They are also quite irregular in shape.
Of these 27 moons, the largest and best known are Ariel, Miranda, and Umbriel. Miranda is the largest, Umbriel the smallest.
Uranus’s moons are mostly ice and rock, and are connected to the planet’s ring system. They are cold, perpetually dark places.
Uranus is currently 2.9626 billion km from the Sun and 3.1131 km from Earth, however, because the solar system in constantly in motion these distances change daily.
Uranus rotates in the opposite direction that the Earth turns, and is one of just two planets to do this. Venus is the other. It takes planet 17 hours and 14 minutes to complete a rotation, meaning a day is on this planet is around 7 hours shorter than on Earth.
On the other hand, it takes the planet 84 years to complete its orbit around the Sun. Making one year on Uranus equal to 84 Earth years!
Uranus has an axial tilt of 98 degrees. In other words, it is basically rotating on its side.
Scientists have determined that certain sections of the planet receive direct sunlight for 42 years followed by a period of darkness lasting this same duration.
The planet’s strange tilt has been blamed on a collision between Uranus and another planet – the size of the Earth. This happened a very long time ago.
The fact that Uranus can’t be seen by the naked eye is the reason it was only discovered in 1781. William Herschel thought it was a comet before realising that it was a planet. This makes it the first planet to be discovered by the telescope.
Herschel, who made the discovery, wanted to call it ‘Georgian Sidus’ in honour of King George III. But no one liked the name. Eventually, Uranus was proposed and accepted.
Most of the planets in our solar system are named after Roman gods. Uranus stands out because it was named after the Greek god Ouranos, Saturn’s father.
Uranus’ moons were named after characters that Alexander Pope and Shakespeare created.
In 1986, Voyager 2 came within 81,000 km of Uranus. This is the closest human beings have ever come to Uranus.
With the extreme temperature and pressure on Uranus, it’s thought that conditions are not favourable enough to support life.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Uranus you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below!