Probe Uranus.

Source: NASA

On March 13th, 1781 the astronomer William Herschel spotted what he thought was an unusual comet but which he and other astronomers would quickly discover was a planet. It’s the first planet discovered in modern times which makes Uranus very special. Take a little time to explore Uranus, probe its mysteries, and consider what we’ve learned about Uranus since William Herschel first looked up and saw it two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. Like its neighbors, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune, it’s a gas giant. Uranus is full of hydrogen and helium but also in its depths contains ice and rock. Uranus also has a complex cloud system with the lowest clouds believed to be made up of water while the upper layers are methane. There’s a lot of methane in Uranus.

On January 24th, 1986 the Voyager 2 spacecraft probed Uranus. Astronomers at the time called it “the most boring planet” but subsequent studies have shown just how interesting Uranus is. Less than a decade earlier, in 1977, astronomers first discovered rings around Uranus, and then in December 2005 the Hubble telescope detected two additional rings much farther out.

There are also twenty-seven known moons orbiting Uranus. The largest, Titania, orbits Uranus every 8.7 days and because of its closeness to the planet the same side always faces Uranus. Uranus itself orbits the Sun every eighty-four years, which means that since its discovery Uranus hasn’t even been around the Sun three times. However Uranus has a very fast rotation: one day on Uranus is just seventeen hours and fourteen minutes.

Of course Uranus is not alone. There’s also the city of Uranus, right in the middle of Missouri. Uranus is a well-known tourist stop along the historic Route 66, although I think the stretch surrounding it should be renamed the Herschel Highway. The city is known for its fudge factory and also a tattoo place for people who want to be able to say they got a tattoo in Uranus.

Today and every March 13th I hope you’ll join me in spending a little time contemplating Uranus.

Source: Indiegogo

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  1. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for distracting me from other gas giants in the world with Uranus, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you for appreciating that Uranus is not as boring as some of our terrestrial gas giants.

  2. Chuck Baudelaire

    PDaughter and I were watching Project Runway All-Stars, and they visited a planetarium for inspiration. In the workroom, when the designers were asked “What celestial body inspired you?” I shouted “Well Anna, I was inspired by URANUS.” Every time. Because I am immature.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m disappointed that none of the actual contestants went there, because how could you resist a chance to go to Uranus? I can’t believe anyone would consider it a boring planet when the jokes just write themselves.

  3. Allison

    When I was in 5th grade, we all had to make 3-D models of the solar system. Pretty sure our teachers were getting a kickback from the Styrofoam ball folks.

    Anyway, the day they were due, I had some technical difficulties, wherein I got to say to my teacher, “Ms. Fogarty, Uranus fell off and rolled under the car.” I was able to retrieve it, but it was touch and go there for a second. It’s always touch and go with Uranus.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Things are always touchy with Uranus.
      And it never occurred to me that teachers must be getting a kickback from the Styrofoam ball makers. What else are they used for besides solar system models and molecules? I’m going to stop now before I make the inevitable joke about balls and Uranus.

      1. Arionis

        I won’t stop. Aren’t those just twin moons that have an erratic orbit around Uranus?

        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          You can’t stop with Uranus.


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