Solar System

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and was discovered by William Herschel in 1781.

The atmosphere is 83% hydrogen, 15% helium and only 2% methane. Interestingly methane, which Uranus contains the least of absorbs the red light from the Sun and makes the planet glow in an ethereal turquoise colour. The reason for the atmosphere being plain is because it receives very little heat from the Sun and its core is not as hot as Saturn and Jupiter. The only weather seems to be fast speed winds.

The tranquil aquamarine disk of Uranus.          
Image copyright CJ. Hamilton

The strange thing about Uranus is that it is sideways. This isn't apparent when looking at the featureless sphere of Uranus but this was discovered by studying the magnetic field. A probe called Voyager 2 looked at the magnetic tail and found that it was tilted. The tails corresponds to the north pole so from this, it was determined that the planet was sideways. This is known as an axial tilt.

Even though they are not visible, Uranus has rings but they are extremely dark and were discovered in 1977 when they blocked the light of a star.


Name: Uranus

Distance from Sun: 1,783,939,400 miles

Diameter: 31 764 miles

Length of Day: 17 hours 14 minutes

Length of Year: 84 years

Number of moons: 27


Uranus has many moons but most of them are grey coloured or they are asteroids. Most of them are named after characters from Shakespeare's plays and the four largest were named by John Herschel in 1851.

The largest moon of Uranus is Titania and has an icy crust. Another moon called Miranda has deep canyons that can be seen in the image below.

The surface of Miranda has many deep grooves that might have been created by cryovolcanic eruptions.

Ariel, one of the moons of Uranus.  
Image copyright CJ. Hamilton
The jagged grooves of Miranda.  
Image copyright CJ. Hamilton