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The Astronomical Planet

The Astronomical Planet UranusOnce considered one of the blander-looking planets, Uranus (pronounced YOOR un nus) has been revealed as a dynamic world with some of the brightest clouds in the outer solar system and 11 rings.

Uranus gets its blue-green color from methane gas above the deeper cloud layers. Methane absorbs red light and reflects blue light.

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Planetary Statistics of Uranus
Chronology of Uranus
Environment of Uranus
Moons of Uranus
Images and Information
The Astrological Planet Uranus

Planetary Statistics of Uranus:

Uranus: Seventh Planet from the Sun
Diameter: 32,600 miles
Distance from the Sun: 1,784 million miles
Planetary Year: 84.07 Earth years to make one complete revolution around the Sun.
Planetary Day: 17.9 Earth hours to make one complete revolution on its axis.
Temperature: Mean; 59 K (-214 C, -354 F)
Moons: 27 known, 21 named; (Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Belinda, Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, Caliban, Stephano, Trinculo, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos).

Chronology of Uranus

Astronomer William Herschel, who first believed it to be a comet, discovered Uranus in 1781. This seventh planet from the Sun is so distant that it takes 84 years to complete an orbit.

Uranus rings were first discovered in 1977. The rings are in the planets equatorial plane, perpendicular to its orbit about the Sun. The 10 outer rings are dark, thin, and narrow, while the 11th ring is inside the other ten and is broad and diffuse. The rings of Uranus are very different from those surrounding Jupiter and Saturn. When viewed with the Sun behind the rings, fine dust can be seen scattered throughout all of the rings.

In 1986, Voyager 2 observed faint cloud markings in the southern latitudes blowing westward between 100 and 600 km/hr.

In 1998, the Hubble Space Telescope observed as many as 20 bright clouds at various altitudes in Uranus atmosphere. The bright clouds are probably made of crystals of methane, which condense as warm bubbles of gas well up from deep in the atmosphere of Uranus.

Environment of Uranus

Uranus is classified as a "gas giant" planet because it has no solid surface. The atmosphere of Uranus is hydrogen and helium, with a small amount of methane and traces of water and ammonia.

The bulk (80 percent or more) of the mass of Uranus is contained in an extended liquid core consisting primarily of "icy" materials (water, methane, and ammonia), with higher-density material at depth.

Uranus currently moves around the Sun with its rotation axis nearly horizontal with respect to the ecliptic plane. This unusual orientation may be the result of a collision with a planet-sized body early in the planets history, which apparently changed Uranus rotation radically. Uranus magnetic field is unusual in that the magnetic axis is tilted 60 degrees from the planets axis of rotation and is offset from the center of the planet by one-third of the planets radius.

Uranus is so far from the Sun that, even though tipped on its side and experiencing seasons that last over twenty years, the temperature differences on the summer and winter sides of the planet do not differ that greatly. Near the cloud tops, the temperature of Uranus is near -215 °C.

Moons of Uranus

Uranus is named for an ancient Greek sky god. It has 27 known moons, named mostly for characters from the works of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope.

Miranda is the strangest Uranian moon. The high cliffs and winding valleys of the moon may indicate partial melting of the interior, with icy material occasionally drifting to the surface.

Information Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech

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