The Planet Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun. It has the distinction of being the only planet with an equator that is at a right angle from its orbit. Effectively, the planet orbits sideways. Astronomers believe that is due to Uranus colliding with another object long ago. The tilt is responsible for extreme seasons. Sometimes these seasons last for more than 20 years and the sun beating down on one pole for close to 84 Earth years.
- Orbit: 84 Earth years
- Diameter: 31, 763 miles (51, 120 km)
- Day: 18 Earth hours
The planet Uranus was formally discovered in 1781 by William Herschel. Though it was observed long ago, it was long mistaken to be a star as a result of its slow orbit and dimness. The dimness associated with the planet is due to the methane present in its atmosphere. The planet has many moons and also faint rings.
Uranus is named after the Greek god of the sky, Ouranos and is the only planet to be named after a Greek god. Before this particular name was decided upon, several names were proposed such as Hypercronius (“above Saturn”), Minerva, Herschel and even Georgium Sidus. The name for this planet was later finalised by the German astronomer, Johann Bode.
The magnetic poles of planets are typically aligned with their axis of rotation. Uranus exhibits an exception with its magnetic field being tipped by almost 60 degrees from its axis of rotation. Furthermore, it has been found that the strength of the magnetic field is more at the surface near the northern hemisphere than that at the southern hemisphere.
The composition of the planet Uranus is estimated as 25% rock, 5-15% helium and hydrogen and 60-70% ice. Uranus’ core is made of iron and magnesium silicate and its mantle is made of water, methane and ammonia ices. Uranus has seasons that last 21 years on an average. However, the extreme tilt of its axis gives rise to unusual weather. When sunlight reaches some areas for the first time after some years, this heats the atmosphere and causes huge storms. On the other hand, when it was discovered in 1986 by Voyager 2, it had only 10 clouds and was dubbed ‘the most boring planet’.
Uranus possesses two sets of rings. The inner set is comprised of narrow and dark rings while the other set has two distant rings that are coloured red and blue. As of now, as much as 27 rings have been seen around Uranus.