Guide to the planets…Uranus

Inset-uranus

Inset-uranus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fact file

  • 7th planet from the sun (distance from the sun: 1, 783, 939, 400 miles)
  • the planet is tilted at an extreme angle of 97 degrees (its axis often points directly towards the sun)
  • gas giant atmosphere  containing hydrogen, helium and small amounts of methane and water vapour
  • average surface temperature: -216 degrees C
  • length of year: 30, 687 days
  • length of day: 17 hours 15 minutes (retrograde)
  • number of moons: 27

 Uranus is the 7th planet from the sun at a distance of over 1, 700,000,000 miles from the sun. It is a gas giant like Jupiter and Saturn and has an atmosphere made up of mainly Hydrogen and Helium along with a small amount of methane and traces of water and ammonia. The reason Uranus appears to us as to having a blue-green coloured atmosphere is because of the methane its atmosphere contains.  sunlight that reaches the planet’s atmosphere is reflected of the clouds that are below a layer of methane gas. When the reflected sunlight returns through the methane gas, the methane absorbs any red light. this means that only blue and green light escapes when the sunlight is reflected off the clouds, and so only blue and green light is visible, giving Uranus its striking colour.

Uranus rotates on its axis at a very extreme and unusual angle of 97 degrees, making its rotation axis almost horizontal.  It is thought that Uranus was knocked onto its side by a large impact from an ancient planet or comet, billions of years ago. As a result, Uranus experiences seasons that can be as long as 20 years long, although despite this the temperature differences between the summer and winter sides are low. this is because Uranus is so far from the Sun, so the planet has an average temperature of -216 degrees C at its cloud tops.

Uranus has 27 moons. Miranda is the smallest of the five major moons and is arguably the most unusual. It has a surface covered in giant fault canyons that are 12 times deeper than that of the Grand Canyon on planet Earth. This rugged terrain of Miranda suggests that the moon be experiencing a partial melting of its interior which also pushes ice towards the surface on rare occasions. Ariel, is thought to be Uranus’ youngest moon due to its bright surface. Umbriel has the darkest surface of all of Uranus’ moons and is covered in large craters. Oberon, shows little sign of internal activity and it’s surface is heavily cratered. Some of these craters contain a mysterious dark material. Titania is the largest of Uranus’ moon’s. It has a heavily scarred surface containing fault lines and rifts which suggests large amounts of geological activity during its formation. Titania is made up of half ice and half rock.

Sources

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