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Explore Uranus

Student Planet Facts

Hanging like a giant cue ball in space, Uranus has hidden its secrets in frozen gases. Uranus Here are some facts and other places you can find information.

The icy planet Uranus is a smaller version of Jupiter and not the small rocky bodies like Earth. It have faint rings and a number of moons. Uranus takes some 84 years to orbit the sun. It rotates on its side and so half the time, one pole is toward the sun and then the other, making each of the four seasons last about 20 years. The faint bluish color of the planet is because the methane gas in the atmosphere absorbs red light and reflects blue light.

On March 13, 1781, an English astronomer named William Herschel discovered the planet but thought it might have been a comet. More observations and calculations by Herschel and others confirmed that it was indeed a planet. Since it was the first new planet found, Herschel had the honor of naming it, so Herschel's Planet became Georgium Sidus (George's Star) after King George III of England.

Knighted for his many astronomical contributions, Sir William Herschel was born Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel in Hanover, Germany on November 15, 1738. Due to poor health, he moved to England in his teens where he changed his name to William. He was an accomplished musician as well as an astronomer. His sister, Caroline, faithfully helped record his nightly observations. See more about Women in Astronomy here.
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After the astronomer's death, the planet was changed to Uranus as suggested by German astronomer Johann Bode. He thought that since Saturn was Jupiter's father, then the next outward planet should be called Saturn's father, Uranus. Uranus is the only planet called by a Greek name rather than a Roman name. However, most of the moons of the various planets are named from Greek mythology. See below for Planet Myths and Lore.

New Moon for Uranus
Observations of Uranus taken in Chile in August, 2002, with the 4-meter Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory Blanco telescope have revealed a probable new moon for Uranus. The object is likely 7 to 19 kilometers across and would be the 16th moon orbiting Uranus. Five moons were known before the Voyager 2 Mission which found 10 more totaling 15. All of the planets' natural satellites seem to be about 50% water ice, 30% rock and 20% carbon and nitrogen materials.

How much would you weigh on Uranus?
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Gravity and You
Your weight on Earth is determined by your mass and Earth's mass. Click for Planet Myths and Lore
Would you weigh more or less on Saturn?

Planet Names
Why are the planets named for Roman gods? What is the story or myth about their names? Click image or here for Planet Myths and Lore.

Click for NASA/JPL Planetquest Are There Planets Like Uranus Around Other Stars?
The first planet outside of our solar system was discovered around 51 Pegasi, a small star in the constellation Pegasus. Since then more than 100 planets have been found.
For more information on how astronomers discover new planets click image or here NASA/JPL Planetquest.

Quick Facts about Uranus
Topic Data
Diameter 51,118 km
Density 1.29 g/cm3
Mass 8.686 x 1025 kg
Volume 6.995 x 1013 km3
Temperature Range -214° C to >-205° C
Atmosphere Hydrogen, Helium, Methane
Winds Up to 160 m/s
Moons 16
Average Distance from Sun 2,870,990,000 km
Orbital Period 84 Years, 3 Days, 15.66 Hours
Rotation 0 Days, 17.25 Hours
Tilt 97.86°
Rings Yes
Composition Hydrogen and Helium
Magnetic Field Extends 15 times planet radius

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Women in Astronomy

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Sir William Herschel
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