The Planet Uranus
This is a study of the mesmerizing pale blue planet, Uranus. Our third largest planet is an ice giant and the coldest planet in our solar system. Join me on this armchair journey to learn the secrets of the seventh planet from the Sun.
Uranus, You're So Darn Frigid!
Uranus holds the proud title of being the coldest planet in our solar system, boasting the freezing temperature of -371.2 ÂºF . The internal structure of Uranus is believed to be made of mostly ice with some rock. The atmosphere of Uranus contains a large amount of various ices made made up of water, ammonia and methane, along with traces of hydrocarbons. Uranus also has the usual hydrogen and helium gases in its atmosphere as well. Uranus gets its beautiful blue color from the icy methane in it's upper atmosphere.
Uranus, Just the Facts
As stated above, Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and the third largest planet in our solar system, Uranus is the only planet named after a Greek god instead of a Roman god, and its moons are named after literary characters of Shakespeare and Pope. It takes 84 Earth years for one orbit around the Sun, and a day on Uranus is a bit over 17 hours.
Uranus is tilted, this planet is so tilted that it's poles are alternately facing the Sun. This means that while one pole is getting 42 years of continuous sunlight, the opposite pole gets 42 years of darkness. This would lead one to believe that the polar region facing the Sun would be the hottest point on the planet, but it isn't, the equator is hotter than any of the poles during their days in the Sun.
Uranus also has extremely strong winds, which is common on all the gas giants, a category Uranus also belongs to. Wind speeds on Uranus can reach over 200 miles per second. These winds flow in a retrograde direction around the equator, and switch direction as well as gain speed as they reach the poles.
The picture to the right show Uranus with a bright cloud formation (the white spot on the planet). Uranus was experiencing record breaking winds and a long-lasting storm at this time. The extreme and unusual weather on Uranus is blamed on its unusual axial tilt. Also seen is the bright south polar region, which is another characterisic of Uranus.
The Planet Uranus
Amazing video on Uranus! You've got to see this.
Rings around Uranus
Uranus is Ringing
Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781, and in 1789, William Herschel stated that he believed Uranus had a ring system. Others in the scientific community of the day scoffed at the idea, because the rings were so faint. William Herschel made very accurate notations of one of the main rings of Uranus, even noting it's red color. It wasn't until 1977 that rings around Uranus were confirmed by men using the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. They weren't even looking for rings, but wanted to study the atmosphere of the planet instead,
Uranus is now known to have at least 13 rings, with most of them being grey in color except for the inner and outer rings which are blue and a middle ring which is red. It is not entirely known what the rings are made of. There seems to be very little dust, and because the rings are dark and have very little albedo (reflective properties), they do not contain as much ice as the rings of Saturn.
Uranus has many, many moons, and most of these moons are found amongst the rings as can be seen in the diagram. The moons of Uranus were all named after the works of Shakespeare and Alander Pope. The moons of Uranus are collectively much smaller than the moons of other planets, as a matter of fact, if you combined the five largest moons of Uranus into one moon, it would still be much smaller than Tritan, which is the largest moon of Neptune, and the seventh largest moon in our solar system.
Of all the known moons of Uranus the oldest is believed to be Umbriel and the youngest, Ariel.
When Moons Collide
A short clip on the great possibility of a future collision between two of Uranus's moons.