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Planet Uranus: Facts, Moons & Temperature

Instructor: Jeff Fennell

Jeff has a master's in engineering and has taught Earth science both domestically and internationally.

Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system. As a gas giant, Uranus is made of gaseous elements. This lesson will cover the properties of Uranus, and afterwards there will be a quiz to test your knowledge.

Uranus

Uranus is a Gas Giant and the seventh planet from the sun. The third largest planet in the solar system, Uranus has rings just like Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. In 1986, Voyager 2 visited Uranus, uncovering new features previously unknown.

Discovered by William Herschel on March 13, 1781, Uranus was the first planet discovered in modern times with a telescope as opposed to with the naked eye. In fact, it had been observed many times throughout history, but it was mistaken as another star.

Orbit

All of the planets are tilted on their axes to some degree, but Uranus has the most extreme axial tilt of 98°. One of the unique features of Uranus is that it rotates on its side. This leads Uranus to experience extreme seasons. Additionally, it leads to unusual days at the poles.

At the equator, Uranus experiences normal days and nights. However, because it rotates on its side, at any given time one pole is pointed towards the Sun. This results in one pole experiencing 42 Earth years of day followed by 42 years of night.

Composition

Uranus is a 'Gas Giant' with a surface area of about 8,115,600,000 square kilometers. It's surface is frozen and gaseous with a molten core. Uranus is roughly 15 times the mass of the Earth, although it is has a density only similar to water at 1.27 g/cm^3, mostly containing gaseous water, ammonia and methane.

Moons

Uranus has 27 moons. Although many moons in the solar system are named after mythological figures, the moons of Uranus are instead named after characters from Shakespeare and Alexander Pope's literary works. The largest moon is Titania with a radius of only 788.9 km, less than half the size of our moon. The next four largest moons are Miranda, Oberon, Umbriel, and Ariel.

Facts

Here are some basic facts and figures relating to Uranus:

  • Diameter: 51,500 km (32,000 miles)
  • Temperature: -197.15 C (-322.87 F)
  • Orbit: 84 years
  • Average Distance: 2,870,972,200 km (1,783,939,400 miles - 19.2 AU) from Sun
  • Mass: 8.6849 x 1025 kg
  • Moons: 27
  • Period of Rotation: 17.24 hours (retrograde: spins backwards compared to most other planets)

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