Picture Encyclopedia of Astronomy Terms

Uranus is the seventh planet away from the Sun and has the fourth largest mass. It is the first of the ice giants. It is the only planet that rotates on its side. It is the only other planet not named after a Roman god; it is named after the Greek god of the sky.

Uranus is the seventh planet away from the Sun, with an average distance of 2,872,500,000 km. It is the third biggest and has the fourth largest mass. Uranus, alongside Neptune, is described as an ice giant due to its composition and size. Uranus is not only composed of hydrogen and helium, but also ices such as ammonia, water, and methane. Its blue color comes from methane in the upper atmosphere which absorbs red light from the sun, but reflects the blue light. Uranus has a mass of approximately 14.5 times that of Earth, making it the least massive of the four giant planets. Uranus is known to have 27 moons, but there could be more.

Uranus has been observed and incorrectly recorded many times as a star or comet. It was first correctly identified as a planet by William Herschel in 1781, making it the first planet to be discovered using a telescope. Herschel originally wanted to call the planet Georgium Sidus after the British Monarch King George III, but he wasn’t successful. The planet is named after the Greek god of the sky. It is the only planet to named after a Greek god, not a Roman one.

It wasn’t until the planet was observed in 1977 that scientists found that Uranus, like Saturn, is surrounded by rings. Uranus is unique in the solar system as its axis is 97° off the vertical, so Uranus actually spins on its side. The first flyby of Uranus was in 1986 when Voyager 2 flew past 81,500 km away from the planet.

Uranus Facts

  • Orbital Period: 30,589 Earth days
  • Length of a Day: 17.2 hours
  • Diameter: 49,528 km
  • Distance from the Sun: 2,872,500,000 km
  • Strength of Gravity: 8.7 N/kg
  • Number of Moons: 27

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