Uranus Facts for Kids
Mean distance from Sun: (1,784,860,000 miles) 2,872,460,000 km
Orbital period (year): 30,685 Earth days (just over 84 Earth years)
Rotation period (day): 17 hours 14 minutes - but the atmosphere rotates faster
Diameter at equator: (31,763 miles) 51,118 km
Tilt of axis: 98 degrees
Uranus (pronounced YOUR-uh-nuss) is nearly twenty times as far from the Sun as Earth is.
It takes over 84 years to go once around the Sun. That is a long year. You wouldn't have very many birthday parties there even if you lived to be quite old.
Uranus was the first planet discovered with a telescope.
William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781. Until then people thought that there were no more planets after Saturn. Yet in good conditions, if you know where to look, you can see Uranus without a telescope or binoculars. This makes it the farthest planet visible with the unaided eye.
Uranus was almost named George.
Herschel wanted to name his planet after the king of England George III, who was supporting him in his work. The Latin name Georgium Sidus meant George's star, but other astronomers didn't much like this idea. German astronomer Johann Bode suggested Uranus, Roman sky god and father of Saturn, which was acceptable.
Uranus is an ice giant.
Uranus is a giant planet. It's almost a twin of Neptune, but they're both smaller than Jupiter and Saturn. In addition, Jupiter and Saturn are almost all hydrogen and helium, the two lightest elements in the universe. However Uranus is made up mostly of ices - frozen water, ammonia and methane. These are made of heavier elements, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen.
Uranus is a blue-green color.
Its atmosphere is 83% hydrogen and 15% helium, but it also contains methane. Methane crystals in the atmosphere soak up red light and reflect blue light, giving Uranus its color.
Uranus has rings.
Saturn has the prettiest rings in the Solar System, but Uranus does have at least thirteen rings. They're difficult to see because Uranus is far away and the rings are thin and very dark.
Uranus has 27 known moons.
Many Solar System bodies have names from classical mythology. Unusually, the moons of Uranus are named after characters from English literature, mainly Shakespeare. For example, one of the moons is named Juliet, but there is no Romeo to keep her company.
The fastest winds on Uranus blow at about 450 miles per hour (720 kilometers per hour).
That is three times the speed of typical hurricanes on Earth and much faster than the strongest tornado ever measured on our planet.
Most of what we know about Uranus comes from a space probe.
Uranus was something of a mystery until Voyager 2 visited it in 1986. More recently, powerful telescopes help us to study Uranus, but still most of what we know is from Voyager's visit.
The axis of Uranus is tilted by 89 degrees.
This means that Uranus has seasons nothing like the ones we are used to. Earth is tilted by 23 degrees on its axis which gives us four seasons as Earth orbits the Sun. For example, when your hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, you have summer and people living in the opposite hemisphere have winter.
But Uranus is tilted so much, it orbits lying on its side. If Earth were like this, each hemisphere would have three months of summer where it didn't get dark at all. There would also be three months of winter without seeing the Sun. In spring and fall everyone would have days of about the same length. If this sounds strange, just think of Uranus itself where the seasons are twenty years long!
You Should Also Read:
Uranus and Neptune Twin Planets
Why Planets Have Seasons
Herschel Museum of Astronomy
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