Uranus facts and information
Although there is still much to be discovered about Uranus, astronomers have been studying Uranus for over 200 years. Here are some facts and information.
Photo Credit: NASA
By Sarah McGuire
William Hershel discovered Uranus on March 13th, 1781, using a telescope he had invented. Observations of the objects movement indicated that it was a planet. William Hershel called the newly discovered planet George’s Star in honor of the King of England, George III. However, the name was later changed to one more acceptable to astronomers. The planet was re-named Uranus after the Greek god of the sky.
Since 1781, people have been observing Uranus and learning many interesting facts about this planet’s location and movement. Uranus is located approximately 1,784 million miles from the sun, making it the seventh planet from the sun. Because of its distance from earth, about 1,691 million miles, it can only be observed with a telescope on a clear night. A giant outer planet composed of gases, mostly hydrogen and helium, Uranus travels in an orbit around the sun once every eighty-four years. It rotates every seventeen hours and fourteen minutes on an axis tilted at ninety-seven degrees.
Uranus is too far from Earth to see with the naked eye. Even with its diameter of 31, 764 miles, and the use of telescopes, it is difficult to learn details about the planet. In 1986, the space probe Voyager 2 was able to send back detailed images of Uranus. The Hubble Telescope was used to observe Uranus in the 1990’s, revealing more about the planet.
What do astronomers see when they observe Uranus and its surroundings, and analyze the information provided by the Voyager 2 and the Hubble Telescope? Uranus can appear as a blue-green disk with a cloudy atmosphere because methane is included in its upper layer of gases. Strong winds travel at speeds up to six hundred and fifty miles an hour, blowing clouds around the planet and obstructing astronomers’ views.
At least eighteen orbiting moons, or satellites, surround Uranus. These moons are all less than one thousand miles wide, and thirteen of them are less than one hundred miles wide. Astronomers have discovered evidence indicating that Uranus may have up to twenty-one moons. Although they have not yet been officially discovered, astronomers also speculate that more small moons travel through Uranus’s system of rings.
Uranus’s system of rings is made up of eleven rings that circle the planet. Uranus’s rings were first observed as obstructions of the light of a passing star. Uranus has since been photographed by the space probe Voyager 2, and the Hubble Space Telescope with some of its rings clearly visible. This system of rings is made up of eleven individual rings that circle the planet. These rings are composed of rocks and dust and some have gaps. Astronomers believe that some of these rings may be the result of meteors having stricken a moon. The gravity of two of the eighteen or more remaining moons, Cordelia and Ophelia, continue to hold the material forming the rings together.
For over two hundred years, Uranus has been fascinating astronomers, other scientists, and ordinary people. However, it can be a challenging planet to observe from earth because of its distance, and sending a space probe is expensive. Although there is a vast amount of information available to us today, there is still much to be learned about this planet.
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