There’s much to know about the pale blue planet affectionally known as Uranus. For example, did you know that it was discovered in 1781 but had actually been seen many times before. Uranus’s original name was Georgian Sidus? Or that it needs about eighty-four Earth years to revolve around the sun? If you want to find out more then buckle your seat belt and take a ride with us, because these are 25 Facts About Uranus You May Not Know
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun, and has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the solar system.
It’s not visible to the naked eye and was the first planet discovered with the use of a telescope.
Uranus was officially discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781.
William Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany. He moved to England in 1757 in order to pursue a career as a musician but after buying a book on astronomy he became interested only in watching the sky.
Uranus is too dim to have been seen by the ancients. At first Herschel thought it was a comet, but several years later it was confirmed to be a planet.
The name comes from the ancient Greek deity Ouranos, the earliest supreme Greek god of the heavens whose sons were the Giants and Titans.
However, Herschel tried to have his discovery named “Georgian Sidus” after King George III. The name Uranus was suggested by astronomer Johann Bode.
The planet rotates in a retrograde direction, opposite of the way Earth and most other planets turn.
And because Uranus lies on its side as it orbits the sun, for nearly a quarter of its orbit one of its poles is in complete darkness
Uranus is the smallest of the four “giants,” (the others being Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune), but is still several times larger than Earth. It has a diameter of 29,297 miles, or 47,150 kilometers, compared to Earth’s diameter of just under 8,000 miles, or 12,760 kilometers.
But like the other gas giants Uranus has a hydrogen upper layer, which has helium mixed in. Below that is an icy mantle, which surrounds a rock and ice core, which is the reason why Uranus is often referred to as an “ice giant” planet. The upper atmosphere is made of water, ammonia, and the methane ice crystals that give the planet its pale blue color
From the time Uranus was first observed, scientists noticed that at certain points in its orbit the planet was being pulled farther out into space.
In the nineteenth century certain astronomers hypothesized that this pull was due to the gravitational pull from another planet.
By making mathematical calculations based on observations from Uranus, two astronomers, Adams and Le Verrier, identified the location of the other planet.
The planet that was exerting a gravitational pull on Uranus was Neptune, 10.9 AU farther out in space.
And in case you are wondering what an AU is, distances in the solar system are measured in astronomical units (AU), with Earth’s distance from the sun being 1 AU. Uranus is 19.2 AU from the sun
Another awesome fact about Uranus is that it makes you think you’re skinnier. If you weighed 150 pounds on Earth then you would weigh 136 pounds on Uranus because its gravity is only 8.87 m/s2 or 29.1 ft/s2.
The upper atmosphere of Uranus is covered by a methane haze that hides the storms that take place in the cloud decks.
Uranus has two sets of rings of very thin set of dark-colored rings. The ring particles are small, ranging from dust-sized particles to small boulders. There are eleven inner rings and two outer rings.
The first rings were discovered in 1977 when Uranus passed in front of a star and astronomers were able to observe the planet using the Hubble Telescope.
Uranus has a total of twenty-seven moons, most of which are named after characters in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The five major moons are called Titania, Oberon, Miranda, Ariel, and Umbriel. Umbriel is not from Shakespeare but is the “melancholy sprite” in a poem by Alexander Pope.
The most interesting Uranian moon is Miranda; it has ice canyons, terraces, and other strange-looking surface areas.
Uranus hits some of the coldest temperatures of any planet. With a minimum temperature of -224°C Uranus is nearly the coldest planet in the solar system. While Neptune doesn’t get as cold as Uranus, it is on average colder.
Uranus makes one trip around the sun every eighty-four Earth years. During some periods in its orbit one of its poles points directly at the sun and gets about forty-two years of direct sunlight. The rest of the time they are in darkness.
Only one spacecraft has flown by Uranus. In 1986, the Voyager 2 swept past the planet at a distance of 81,500 km. It returned the first close-up images of the planet, its moons, and rings.
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