Uranus is the seventh planet away from the sun and the third of the Gas Giants in the solar system. It is a very unique planet that we don’t know an awful lot about. It has never been visited by a spacecraft, has mysteriously low temperatures and rolls around the sun on its side! Here are some facts on Uranus.
- Uranus is named after the father of the Roman god Saturn. This is most likely due to it’s similarities with the planet Saturn.
- Uranus has a diameter of 29297 miles (47,150 kilometres) It is the smallest of the gas giants but still four times bigger than Earth.
- Uranus is the Seventh planet from the sun. It is 1782 million miles (2869 million kilometres) from the Sun and is between Saturn and Neptune.
- A day on Uranus is 17 hours and 14 minutes. This is how long it takes to turn on its axis so it is rotating at a good speed.
- A year on Uranus is 84 Earth days.This is how long Uranus takes to orbit the sun.
- A telescope is needed to see Uranus. This means ancient astronomers were unaware of Uranus as they did not have the equipment needed to see it. The planet was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel using a telescope.
- Uranus has 27 moons. Five of these are quite big and the rest a lot smaller. The large ones are named Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon. All of the moons are named after the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.
- Uranus is one of the planets in a group called the Gas Giants. There are four of these in the solar system, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune. Uranus is the smallest of the four but is still a lot bigger than Earth.
- Uranus lies on its side as it goes around the sun. Its axis sits at 98 degrees. This means it spins horizontally. Nobody’s really sure why this is but the theory is that long ago an Earth sized planet may have crashed into Uranus and caused the shift.
- Uranus is surrounded by 13 rings. These were all discovered quite recently so there may be more. Unlike Saturn, scientists are unsure what the rings around Uranus are made from.
- Uranus has a mass 14 x that of Earth. That makes it the lightest of all the Gas Giants.
- The atmosphere of Uranus is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. This is very similar to Saturn and Jupiter.
- What makes Uranus different is that it also has a good amount of ices made from water, ammonia and methane. Because of this the planet is sometimes referred to as one of the Ice Giants. (Uranus and Neptune)
- The methane in the atmosphere actually absorbs the red colour on the light spectrum. That is why Uranus appears to be a blue/green colour. They are the colours reflected back into space.
- Astronomers watching Uranus noticed that at a certain point when it goes around the sun, it was being pulled further out of its orbit. Scientists thought this must be due to the gravitational pull of another planet. This is what helped them discover Neptune.
- The only space mission that has made it near Uranus is The Voyager 2. It flew by the planet in 1986 and gave us the first “close up” pictures of Uranus. Scientists also found evidence of what appears to be an ocean of boiling water roughly 497 miles (800 kilometres) underneath the clouds.
- Uranus is the coldest planet in our Solar System. The minimum surface temperature is -224 degrees Celcius (- 371 degrees fahrenheit)