Go Farther. Ten Things to Know About Uranus. Uranus is about four times wider than Earth. If Earth were a large apple, Uranus would be the size of a basketball. Uranus orbits our Sun, a star, and is the seventh planet from the Sun at a distance of about 1. Uranus takes about 17 hours to rotate once a Uranian day , and about 84 Earth years to complete an orbit of the Sun a Uranian year.
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Uranus is an ice giant. Most of its mass is a hot, dense fluid of "icy" materials — water, methane and ammonia — above a small rocky core.
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Uranus has an atmosphere made mostly of molecular hydrogen and atomic helium, with a small amount of methane. Uranus has 27 known moons, and they are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. Uranus has 13 known rings. The inner rings are narrow and dark and the outer rings are brightly colored. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly by Uranus. No spacecraft has orbited this distant planet to study it at length and up close.
Like Venus, Uranus rotates east to west. But Uranus is unique in that it rotates on its side. Uranus' unique sideways rotation makes for weird seasons. The planet's north pole experiences 21 years of nighttime in winter, 21 years of daytime in summer and 42 years of day and night in the spring and fall.
10 Need-to-Know Things About Uranus
Uranus is the "butt" of more than a few jokes and witty and not so witty puns, but it's also a frequent destination in various fictional stories, such as the video game Mass Effect and TV shows like Doctor Who. The radioactive element uranium was named after Uranus when it was discovered in , just eight years after the planet was discovered. Kid-Friendly Uranus. Kid-Friendly Uranus Uranus is made of water, methane, and ammonia fluids above a small rocky center. Its atmosphere is made of hydrogen and helium like Jupiter and Saturn, but it also has methane. The methane makes Uranus blue.
Uranus also has faint rings. The inner rings are narrow and dark. The outer rings are brightly colored and easier to see. Like Venus, Uranus rotates in the opposite direction as most other planets. They were surprised to find that they'd picked up thermal readings of the planet's rings.
It was amazing. This composite image shows heat from the rings of Uranus for the first time, enabling scientists to determine their temperature: a frigid 77 Kelvin Fahrenheit.
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Molter and his coauthor Imke de Pater, a professor of astronomy, made the above composite image, which shows the rings' thermal glow at radio wavelengths. The dark bands in the image capture molecules that absorb radio waves; in Uranus' case, that's probably hydrogen sulfide. The yellow spot is the planet's north pole, where those molecules are sparse. The study confirmed that Uranus' epsilon ring — the brightest, widest, and densest of the planet's rings — is unique among other rings in our solar system.
Saturn's ice rings, bright and wide enough to see with a standard telescope, are made of particles of varying sizes, from dust with a width of one-thousandth of a millimeter to house-sized chunks of ice. Jupiter's and Neptune's rings are mostly made up of those tiny dust particles. The planet itself is masked since it is very bright compared with the rings. Uranus' epsilon ring, however, contains only rocks at least the size of golf balls. We just don't know. This is a step toward understanding their composition and whether all of the rings came from the same source material, or are different for each ring.
Astronomers first identified Uranus' rings in It took so long to notice them because they're much thinner and darker than Saturn's rings. They reflect only tiny amounts of light in the visible range, with more reflection in the infrared and near-infrared ranges. Voyager 2 snapped the first up-close images of Uranus in At the time, astronomers thought the planet had only nine rings. The spacecraft showed them two more. After Voyager 2 flew by Uranus and snapped the first up-close photos of the planet in , scientists noticed the absence of tiny dust particles in its rings.
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The Planet Uranus
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