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Astronomy

Planet Uranus

Planet Uranus globe
Planet Uranus.
The blue color comes from the gas methane.
Source: NASA.
What is Uranus like?

Uranus is the 7th planet from the Sun. It is more than twice as far from the Sun as Saturn. Uranus is an ice giant like its sister planet Neptune. Although it has a gas surface, like the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, much of the interior of the planet is made up of frozen elements. As a result, Uranus has the coldest atmosphere of all the planets in the Solar System.

The surface of Uranus is made up of mostly hydrogen gas with some helium gas as well. The gas atmosphere makes up about 25% of the planet. This atmosphere is stormy, but not nearly as stormy or active as Saturn or Jupiter. As a result, the surface of Uranus is fairly featureless and uniform.

Moons of Uranus
Some of the moons of Uranus.
Left to Right: Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.
Source: NASA.

Strange Rotation

One of Uranus' most unique features is that it rotates on its side. If you picture the Sun and the planets of the solar system on a table, the other planets would rotate or spin like tops. Uranus, on the other hand, would roll like a marble. Most scientists agree that Uranus' odd rotation is because another large planetoid object collided with the planet with enough force to change its tilt.

How does Uranus compare to Earth?

Uranus is very different from Earth. It's a gas giant, meaning its surface is gas, so you couldn't even stand on it. Being so much further from the Sun, Uranus is much, much colder than Earth. Also, Uranus' odd rotation in relation to the Sun gives it very different seasons. The Sun would shine on parts of Uranus for as long as 42 years and then it would be dark for 42 years.

Uranus compared to Earth
Uranus is much larger than Earth.
Source: NASA.

How do we know about Uranus?

Uranus was first called a planet by British astronomer William Herschel. Herschel discovered Uranus by using a telescope. Prior to Herschel, Uranus was thought to be a star. Since then the only space probe that has been sent to Uranus was the Voyager 2 in 1986. Voyager 2 brought us some detailed pictures of Uranus and its moons and rings.

Fun Facts about the Planet Uranus
Rings of Uranus
Uranus has a thin ring system.
Source: W. M. Keck Observatory

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