Beyond Earth

Planetary Science: Why Uranus Is So Weird? Interesting Facts About The Planet

Apr 8 2020 By Asbin Ghimire

Uranus is perhaps the strangest of all the planets within the solar system. Additionally, the planet itself is not necessarily strange, but a true oddity is its unusual behavior and enigmatic past. While Uranus is visible to the naked eye, because of the dimness of the planet and the slow orbit mistaken as a star for a long period of time. Furthermore, Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun was the first planet to be discovered by the scientist. 

History: When Was The Planet Discovered?

British astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus with his telescope on March 13, 1781, while observing all the stars which is 10 times dimmer than the naked eye can see. After some research, Herschel found one star looking peculiar and noticed that the star followed a planetary orbit within a year.

History of Uranus
History: When Was The Planet Discovered?
Source: BBC

Uranus was named after Ouranos, the Greek sky god, the first of celestial gods. In addition, it is the only planet to be named after a Greek deity and not a Roman one. After its discovery, several names were suggested for the new planet like Hypercronius, Minerva and Herschel.

William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus
William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus
Source: MessageToEagle

Although Herschel proposed the name Georgium Sidus, the idea was unpopular outside England. Later, the German astronomer Johann Bode, who studied the orbit of the planet, gave the planet its final name as Uranus. Likewise, Bode argued that the new planet would be named after Saturn’s parent; since Saturn was Jupiter’s parent.

Formation Of The Planet, Uranus

Lately, the team of researches of Japan’s Tokyo Institute of Technology tackles one of the biggest question marks about Uranus. The researches have tried to solve the biggest question marks about Uranus. The questions like How did it get its strange, lopsided rotation, and what evidence still remains from that event? is a matter of curiosity for everyone.

It has long been thought that at some stage in its history, Uranus suffered a huge impact. The researchers took other possibilities into account and used Earth’s own past as an example of what happens when two massive objects collide in space. One hypothesis about Earth’s Moon formation is that a massive body of Mars crashed into Earth many billion years ago. As a result, materials were dispersed into space and ultimately contributing to the planet and moon we see today.

Formation of the Uranus
Formation of the Uranus
Source: SciTechDaily

Although the Earth developed so much closer to the Sun than Uranus, Scientists believe the type of body that served as its impactor was probably much different, likely made of water ice or ammonia. Unlike the collision that formed the Earth and Moon, scientists believe that a wealth of gas and smaller debris would have been produced by the impact between Uranus and this unknown icy body.

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The planet tipped to its side and slowly accumulated all of the residual material from the collision, while the tiny moons of the planet were created by some large chunks.

Why Uranus Is So Weird?

Uranus is one of the weird planets by its behavior. Some of the weird parts of the planet are discussed below.

Uranus Weird Fact 1: Has A Really Weird Spin

Planets spin in a number of ways around their axis. Some, such as Mercury and Jupiter, have a spin that ensures their north poles point to the plane of their orbital path around the Sun at nearly the right angles. On the other hand, the planet like Earth and Saturn is tilted towards their axis. Likewise, sometimes their north pole is pointing towards the Sun a little more, while at other times it’s away from the Sun.

Then we have Uranus, the solar system’s most inebriate planet: it has tipped over absolutely on its side. In particular, Uranus, like Venus, spins from east to west; the opposite of what Earth does. That means for 21 Earth-years; a piece per Uranian year, its north and south poles take turns directly looking down the furnace at the heart of our solar system.

Uranus Weird Fact 2: There Are Ring Around Uranus

Unlike Jupiter and Neptune, Uranus has a thin network of 13 rings which was detected for the first time in 1977. Voyager 2 saw two of its 13 rings and 11 of its 27 diminutive moons as it skimmed over its cloud tops back in January 1986.

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Ring
There are 13 rings around Uranus
Source: The Register

Its rings consist of a combination of water-ice and rocky material. Particularly, the individual units of which can be smaller than household dust. Its inner rings are thinner and darker; its outer rings are more vibrant and light.

Uranus Weird Fact 3: Unpredictable Weather

Around 80 percent of Uranus’ mass consists of salt, methane, and ammonia, all revolving around a fairly small rocky core. Things are extremely frigid in the upper atmosphere of the Uranus. Additionally, with its molecular hydrogen and atomic helium, it’s temperature can reach up to -214 °C (-353 °F).

Read More: Transition From Geocentric to Heliocentric Model of Universe

On the other hand, Diving deep into its vaporous interior, things really start heating up inside Uranus. Temperatures rise to about 5,000 °C (9,000 ° F) near the heart with all the gas squashing down on itself. Uranus also encounters some strong gusts. Winds blow around Uranus at velocities up to 900 kilometers (560 miles) per hour.

Interesting Facts About the Planet

  • Uranus is the seventh planet away from the Sun, and the third-largest by diameter

  • Like Jupiter and Saturn, one of the gas giants is Uranus

  • Because of the planet’s peculiar inclination, a night at one of its poles lasts for 21 Earth years

  • On this planet, the atmosphere consists primarily of hydrogen, helium, and methane.

  • The methane absorbs all the red light from the sun it gets, and it retains the blue light. That’s what gives the planet its beautiful blue color.

  • It takes 84 years for Uranus to once orbit the Sun.

  • Saturn is famous for its rings. But many people forget that Uranus has the second most dramatic set of rings in the Solar System

  • Just one spacecraft was ever to reach Uranus. In January 1986, NASA’s Voyager 2 passed Uranus.

  • Uranus’s average surface temperature is -224 ° C which makes it the coldest planet in the solar system.

  • There are two key ways to pronounce name for this planet. The most popular way to pronounce it is by “your-anus.” This also attracts a lot of giggles, so Astronomers began pronouncing the word as “urine-iss” to prevent that.

  • Uranus, like Venus, spins from east to west; the opposite of what Earth does

  • Uranus orbital velocity is 6.6 km per second

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