Right. Before I start writing this post, you can stop sniggering at the name of this planet. Uranus is the name of the Greek god of the sky. Although, it was almost called "Georgium Sidus" (after King George III) by the planet's discoverer - William Herschel.
Anyway, Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. One year on Uranus is equivalent to 84 Earth years and a day is only 17 hours and 14 minutes long.
Uranus is also the third largest planet in the Solar System. Here's a quick scale reference where Ironman is the Earth and Uranus is a Galia melon. You could fit 63 Earths in Uranus.
Uranus was the first planet to be discovered using a telescope back in 1781. Herschel originally thought his discovery was a comet or star, before the observations of fellow astronomy Johann Elert Bode confirmed it was indeed a planet, and subsequently named this planet Uranus.
Uranus is an "ice giant" planet with 27 small moons and 13 faint rings of rock and ice debris. The planet is mostly made up of a hot and dense fluid of "icy" materials including water, ammonia and methane. There's no solid surface to land on and it also has a small rocky core that heats up to almost 5,000 degrees Celsius.
Its unique feature is that it orbits at almost 90 degrees from the plane of its orbit. In other words, Uranus looks like a ball rolling around the Sun.
Has Uranus been probed?
Only one spacecraft has ever visited Uranus, which is almost three billion km from the Sun: Voyager 2.
It took the craft nine years to get there, before gathering a huge amount of information on the planet in just a six-hour flyby. The craft found that the temperature of the planet's Sun-facing pole is the same as the temperature at its equator and that there may be an ocean of boiling water about 800 km below the cloud tops.
Voyager 2 also discovered 10 news moons, two new rings and a strong, tilted magnetic field on Uranus.
Extra reading and watching
If you're ever in the beautiful city of Bath in the UK, then check out the Herschel Museum of Astronomy. There's not just some great information on the discovery of Uranus, but the work the Herschels did on astronomical instruments and the mathematics of astronomy is fascinating. William worked alongside his sister Caroline, who helped him to develop the modern mathematical approach to astronomy.
The Hubble Space telescope also spotted a huge shimmering region on Uranus earlier this year, which is believed to be caused by powerful bursts of solar wind.
And here's a great video on Uranus from Altrum:
What is Sunday Science?
Hello. I’m the freelance writer who gets tech. I have two degrees in Physics and, during my studies, I became increasingly frustrated with the complicated language used to describe some outstanding scientific principles. Language should aid our understanding — in science, it often feels like a barrier.
So, I want to simplify these science sayings and this blog series “Sunday Science” gives a quick, no-nonsense definition of the complex-sounding scientific terms you often hear, but may not completely understand.
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