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Planet Facts: Uranus

The seventh planet from the Sun is called Uranus and is considered the third largest and fourth most massive planetary member of the Solar System. The planet is named after the ancient Greek god of the sky (Uranus), who was also the father of Kronos (Saturn). Uranus was also known as the grandfather of Zeus (Jupiter). In modern times, Uranus has served as the first planet discovered. While people are able to catch sight of the planet with the naked eye, ancient onlookers, who thought its presence was far too dim, never considered it a planet.

It wasn’t until 1781 that Sir William Herschel announced to the rest of the world that the discovery of the planet had taken place. This would mark the first time that the boundaries that were once observed regarding the solar system were acknowledged in modern history. It also became the first planet discovered with the use of a telescope.

Uranus is known as the coldest of planets within the Solar System, as it possess a minimum temperature of 49 degrees K. The complicated cloud structure, where water is believed to establish the lowest clouds, is also comprised of methane in the uppermost layers of the clouds. Additionally, the atmosphere contains water, ammonia, helium, and hydrogen.

The Moons of Uranus

Attached to the planet Uranus are 27 known natural satellites, which possess names associated with characters of publications linked to Alexander Pope and Shakespeare. The five main satellites to consider are called Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, and Miranda. The satellite system of Uranus is thought the least massive when compared to the other gas giants. The largest of the satellites is Titania, which showcases a radius that is half the size of the Moon.

The moons of Uranus are made of a combination of ice and rocks, where there is approximately 50% ice and 50% rock. Some of the ice is thought to consist of ammonia and carbon dioxide as well. Additionally, the satellite with the youngest surface is Ariel, which highlights the fewest impact craters, while Umbrial seems the oldest.

The Exploration of Uranus

In 1986, Uranus received a visit from NASA when they sent Voyager 2 for an exploration. This mission is the only time that an investigation of the planet has taken place. As of yet, no other visits have been in the works. With a launch that took place in 1977, Voyager 2 was the closest to come to Uranus on January 24th of 1986, as it neared the cloud tops of the planet. This allowed the craft to study the chemical composition and structure of the atmosphere, where 10 new moons were also discovered. The unique weather patterns of Uranus were also of interest.

Uranus Facts

1) Uranus is situated almost two billion miles from the Sun and is the seventh planet, beaten only by Neptune and Pluto. The planet also possesses a diameter of around 32,000 miles and has a rotation period of 17.4 hours.

2) To date, Uranus is home to more than 20 moons.

3) The core of Uranus is most likely rocky, where a liquid mantle surrounds it comprised of water, methane, and ammonia. The atmosphere is made of helium and hydrogen.

4) When Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus, he saw that it was slowly moving through the constellation called Gemini. At first, Herschel believed he had discovered a new comet.