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It can be great fun to learn about space, especially if you can use a telescope to see what you are learning about, and this is the case with Uranus. Any telescope should enable you to see the planet, so many people want to know more facts about this ice giant to make the experience more interesting. If you like looking at the night sky, keep reading as we go over several interesting facts about this outer planet.
William Hershel was an amateur astronomer in 1781 when he discovered Uranus. While it’s possible to view with the naked eye, people didn’t realize that it was a planet until well after the telescope was invented.
When William Hershel first found Uranus with his telescope, he thought that it was a comet. It took another 2 years for other astronomers to convince him that it was a planet based on its brightness and speed. William Hershel wanted to name his world, Georgium Sidus, after King George III, but it was eventually named after the Greek god of the sky, Uranus.
Scientists studying Uranus have noticed that it has an extreme tilt that causes dramatic weather conditions across the planet. It has a tilt of 97.77 degrees, which might have resulted from a collision with a large, Earth-sized object.
Due to the extreme tilt of Uranus, one of its poles points directly at the sun for ¼ of the year, which is equal to 21 Earth years. The pole on the other side of the planet remains in complete darkness.
The Earth rotates in an eastern direction, so our sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you were standing on Uranus, the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. Venus is the only other planet where you can witness a western sunrise.
While Earth only has a single moon and a recently discovered quasi-satellite that many people consider to be a second moon, Uranus has 27 moons. While Uranus is the only planet that has a Greek god name, astronomers don’t use any for the names of its moons, like other planets. Instead, the names all come from the literary works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.
Most people know that Saturn has rings, but many are surprised to learn that Uranus does too. Uranus has two sets of rings: an inner system of nine rings and an outer system of two. The inner rings are dark grey. The inner and outer rings have a reddish hue, while the outer one is blue.
Uranus is more than 80% icy materials, like water, methane, and ammonia, and has a small rocky core that can reach more than 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since Uranus only has a small rocky core, it is not that dense. In fact, of all the planets in the solar system, only Saturn is less dense.
Since Uranus is more than 80% water, ammonia, and methane gas, it does not have a true surface. Instead, it’s a swirling fluid ball with no noticeable surface and no place to land any spacecraft.
The atmosphere of Uranus is primarily hydrogen and helium, but there is also a small amount of methane gas that helps give it its blue color. The methane absorbs the red part of the sunlight and reflects the blue. Wind speeds can reach more than 560 miles per hour, and temperatures can be colder than -350 degrees Fahrenheit below 0.
Scientists believe that Uranus and its sister planet Neptune, another ice giant, formed close to the sun about 4.5 billion years ago. Both planets then drifted away to their current locations about 4 billion years ago.
The magnetosphere of Uranus is different from the magnetosphere on other planets. For example, the magnetosphere on planets like Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn aligns with the planet’s rotation, but the magnetic axis tilts 60 degrees from the planet’s axis on Uranus. It’s also offset from the center by more than 1/3 of the planet’s diameter.
While the poles of Uranus experience 21-year-long winters due to its tilt, the large planet rotates much faster than Earth does, and a Uranus day lasts a little over 17 hours and 14 minutes. Since it takes Uranus 84 earth years to get around the sun one time, each year has tens of thousands of days.
Uranus is an ice giant that is many times larger than the Earth. Calculations show that 63 Earth-sized planets can fit inside this swirling ball of liquid.
There are many interesting facts to learn about Uranus, and we are discovering new things every day. Many modern telescopes help us get a better look, and though we may never be able to visit it, there is quite a bit that we can learn from this planet to help us understand how the universe works.
Featured Image Credit: NASA, Unsplash
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Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.
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