Uranus is very similar in composition to the planet Neptune, and both have distinct bulk chemical composition from that of the bigger gas giants Saturn and Jupiter. Therefore, scientists usually classify Neptune and Uranus as ‘ice giants’ to differentiate them from the famous gas giants. The atmosphere of Uranus’s is also similar to Saturn’s and Jupiter’s in its main composition of helium and hydrogen, but it contains additional ‘ices’ like methane, ammonia, and water, along with other few hydrocarbons. It’s a complex and layered cloud structure with methane believed to constitute the uppermost clouds and water the lowest layer of clouds. The core of Uranus is primarily composed of rock and ices.
Uranus is the only planet in our solar system which derives its name from a figure from the Greek mythology, from the Latinized edition of the Greek god of sky Ouranos. Like other massive planets, Uranus has a magnetosphere, a ring system, and several moons. The Uranian system has a special configuration among those of other planets. In 1986, some images from Voyager 2 displayed Uranus as a nearly featureless planet in the visible light, without the cloud storms or bands associated with the other huge planets. Observations from Earth have revealed seasonal variation and improved weather activity as Uranus draws near to its equinox in 2007. Wind speeds can reach 900 km/h (560 mph).
The biggest of satellites of Uranus, Titania, has a diameter of only 1577.8km, or even less than half that of Moon, but fairly more than Rhea -the second-biggest satellite of Saturn, making Titania the 8th-biggest moon in our Solar System. Satellites of Uranus have considerably low albedos; ranging from 0.20 for Umbriel-0.35 for Ariel (in green light). They’re ice-rock conglomerates made up of approximately 50 percent rock and 50 percent ice. The ice may include carbon dioxide and ammonia.
In 1781, Uranus was remarkably discovered by Sir William Herschel, a renowned German-born British. He was knighted by the Queen of England for his great contributions towards ancient astronomy. Also, he was responsible for the discovery of some of the moons and rings that surround the planet. Now, let us explore some of the interesting facts about Uranus.
1. Uranus is recognized as the coldest planet in the entire solar system. The lowest surface temperature on Uranus is -224 degrees Celsius– proving it the coldest of the 8 planets. Its upper atmosphere is always covered with a haze composed primarily of methane that hides the storms occurring in its cloud decks.
2. Uranus was originally known as ‘George’s Star’ (Georgium Sidus).
3. Uranus rotates on its own axis once every seventeen hours and fourteen minutes. Similar to Venus, it rotates in a retrograde direction that’s opposite to the direction Earth and the other planets turn.
4. Only one spacecraft has flown by Uranus.
A Voyager 2 spacecraft swept past this planet at the distance of 81,500 km in 1986. It managed to return the earliest close-up images of the planet, its rings, and moons.
5. Uranus has thirteen currently known rings. All except 2 Uranian are very narrow – they’re often a few kilometers broad. It’s thought that the rings are possibly quite young. The matter within those rings is believed to be parts of a moon(s) which were crushed by high-speed impacts with an object like an asteroid or comet.
6. Axis of rotation of Uranus is tilted sideways; therefore, its south and north poles lie where many other planets in the solar system have their equators.
7. Moons of Uranus are named after the characters from the incredible works of Alexander Pope and Shakespeare.
8. Neptune was mathematically only predicted before it was openly seen, depending on the Uranus’ orbit.
9. The traditional chemical element Uranium, discovered in 1789, was named after the freshly discovered planet Uranus.
10. Uranus has only 2 seasons: Winter and Summer.