Yes, It Really Is The Butt of All Jokes
Without a doubt, one of the things that sets Uranus apart from the other planets in our solar system is the simple fact that its name is basically a joke. Though it’s technically not intended to be that way. Because when you look at the word “Uranus” you can say it two different ways, and indeed, how people say the word will show you what they think about the planet.
Because the technical way that you’re SUPPOSED to say it is, “Your-On-Us”. However, most people pronounce it “Your-A-Nus”, as in, “Your anus”, like…your butt.
Yeah…it’s a classic, and many, MANY people have made jokes about the planet and its name over the many decades and centuries since its name. And it’s basically become a part of pop culture in many ways.
For example, on the sports show “Pardon The Interruption” on ESPN, host Tony Kornheiser consistently makes a joke about Uranus when he gets the opportunity, much to the chagrin of his co-host.
In the game Mass Effect 2, your character was able to probe the various planets in the galaxy. Which included going to our solar system and shooting a probe at Uranus. And the computer AI makes various jokes about you doing just that.
It’s very unlikely that this joke will ever really go away, and by that I mean we’ll never get to put it…behind us.
It Is The Coldest Planet In Our Solar System
Our solar system is comprised of nine planets (yes, I’m counting Pluto as a planet, sue me!), and it’s been noted by many that the temperature of the planets is often dictated by how far apart they are from the sun. So by that token, you’d think that Neptune or Pluto would be the coldest planet in the solar system, but they are not, Uranus is.
Just in the clouds that make up the atmosphere, the average temperature on Uranus is about -323 Degrees Fahrenheit. But it can also go as low as -375 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s REALLY cold.
But why is this the case? Why is Uranus so much colder than Neptune or Pluto (Pluto can technically reach temperatures colder than Uranus, but scientists don’t consider it a planet though…). That’s because of its makeup. Mainly, while many of the other planets in our solar system have a core that emits a lot of heat, Uranus doesn’t. So by that token, while it does get heat from the sun, it doesn’t emit as much as the other planets, even Neptune emits more heat than Uranus and it’s much farther from the sun than its twin.
“Uranus is the only giant planet that is not giving off significantly more heat than it is receiving from the Sun, and we don’t know why that is,” says Mark Hofstadter, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The big question is whether that heat is trapped on the inside, and so the interior is much hotter than we expect, right now,” Hofstadter says. “Or did something happen in its history that let all the internal heat get released much more quickly than expected?”
The mystery hasn’t been solved yet, but the result remains the same, it’s cold!
Thus adding another reason why we won’t colonize it. Not that we could before, but it’s nice to know another reason to avoid it.
Its Discovery Almost Didn’t Happen.
While it’s true that technology nowadays allows us to view planets and stars with incredible clarity, you might be surprised by how far back many of our planets were discovered. For Uranus, it was officially discovered all the way back in 1791 by Sir William Herschel.
The catch though was that the sighting of the planet was not believed to be a planet by Herschel. Instead, he thought it was a comet, and thus ignored. It wasn’t until years later that others saw Uranus and confirmed it was indeed a planet.
Now, here’s another twist in this tale, when the planet was confirmed to be real, Herschel wanted to name it Georgian Sidus. Which is a reference to King George III. But instead, the planet was named Uranus via Johann Bode. Who named it after the Greek God Ouranos.
You almost have to wonder what would’ve happened differently history wise if Herschel realized that it was a planet and not a comet in 1791. Would the name have stuck? Would the jokes not have happened?
It Rains Diamonds
Oh sure, NOW you’re interested in going to Uranus.
Jokes aside, this is a true fact about Uranus, it honestly does rain diamonds, and how it does it is both fascinating, and scary. Because as we noted earlier, the upper atmosphere of Uranus is very cold, and thus, it rains. But, as the rains go down towards the planet itself, the temperature rises really fast. So because of this, the ice melts, and when it continues to draw closer to the surface, the pressure of the planet begins to exert itself.
The result? Diamonds. And not just regular diamonds, diamonds the size of grizzly bears. Ones that are said to be millions of carats a piece. I hope I don’t have to state why we haven’t tried to get those diamonds for ourselves. As anything we’d make would either be frozen, burned, or crushed the moment it gets within the atmosphere of Uranus.
Still, it is a fun picture to think of. A planet literally covered in diamonds because it keeps raining them down. Bet you wish this kind of thing happened on Earth, huh?
Two Seasons Take 8 Decades
The tilt of Uranus is a very curious thing, and we’ll talk about it a lot more later. But one thing that often gets missed when talking about the orientation of the planet is that it causes a lot of other weird byproducts as a result. And one of the more pronounced things is the concept of seasons. Because on Earth, and other planets, a season lasts a certain amount of time. Like on Earth how seasons can last a few months depending on weather conditions.
But, because of the orientation of the poles, Uranus has only two seasons, and they last a VERY long time. How long? Try 42 years each. That’s right, depending on the position you have on Uranus, you’re either going to see the sun for 42 years straight, or, be in total darkness for 42 years. Further proof that Uranus is not a place to live in. And truly an oddity in the universe. If the Earth had this kind of thing happen, life likely wouldn’t exist on our planet.
And if you did the math, yes, this means that Uranus takes 84 years to make a complete orbit around the sun.
Only One Spacecraft Has Flown By Uranus
Here’s another curious thing for you to ponder. In the history of probes and satellites and other spacecraft, only one has gone by Uranus with any good view as to show off what the planet was like in good detail. That was the Voyager 2 space probe that went by the planet all the way back in 1986. And even though it went by the planet, it was 81,500 km away from the planet when it took its shots on its camera.
Granted, when it did that, it provided some very high-quality shots of the planet, its rings and its moons, but you have to wonder…why haven’t we tried to go back?
Is it because we don’t consider Uranus a big planet that needs to be discovered? Is it because of the distance, and the fact that it would take many years just to reach it, let alone recover data from it? Or is it simply that in terms of priorities, that NASA and other programs just feel there are better uses for time? I’ll let you be the judge.
I want you to picture a very gusty day here on Earth. I’m talking conditions that make you think that the wind is going to pick you up and literally blow you away.
The highest recorded winds speeds on Earth that have been recorded was via a tornado that reached over 300 miles per hour. And as you know, a tornado isn’t something that happens everyday, and thus, those winds aren’t standard for our planet.
But, on Uranus, they aren’t so lucky. Because the average windspeed of the planet is around 560 miles per hour. And unlike a tornado, that isn’t confined to one distinct area of the planet, that’s all around the planet at times. Trying to live in those conditions would be like being caught in a blender. Which would not be fun, or safe.
Let’s add this to the reasons why Uranus is not a place we’d ever want to live on, ok?
It Has Rings That Are Hard To See
Most people know that Uranus is one of a few planets in our solar system to have rings, but what people forget often times is that you can’t just see them when you look at the planet like you can with Jupiter and Saturn most times. The first sightings of the rings happened in the 1970’s when a picture was seen with the sun reflecting off the rings.
The reason for this is many fold. The primary reason is that unlike Saturn, the rings are incredibly small. So much so that they’re sometimes referred as “baby rings”. The rocks and dust that make up these rings aren’t very big. To the extent that some of them aren’t much bigger than Earth boulders. So considering that Uranus is many times bigger than Earth, a boulder wouldn’t be very visible in space.
As for how the rings got there, the general consensus is that there was a moon in Uranus’ orbit that got demolished, and the rubble from that got caught in the orbit of the planet.
This also lends to the notion that the rings are somewhat “new” in the grand design of the cosmos, only being around 600 million years old at best estimates.
Uranus Has A Lot Of Moons
When it comes to the later planets in our solar system (Jupiter and beyond), you’ll find that just about all of them have a ton of moons. And Uranus is no different. At present, 27 moons have been found in the planets orbit, which makes it less than some of the other planets in the outer ring, but still something worthy of note.
What makes these moons so interesting though is that they’re not very uniform. To the extent that some are very large, others are small, some are made of rock and ice, while others are pure ice, and some are so rough that they look like an abstract painting.
The largest moons of the 27 though are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Oberon and Titania.
And while some of these moons are very barren, some are believed to have liquid oceans within them.
Despite Its Size, It’s Not Very Dense
The phrase, “Looks can be deceiving” is very apropos when it comes to Uranus, because when you look at the size of the planet, you think that not only is it large, but that it’s very dense. But in fact, it’s the opposite, despite its massive size, which is 14.5 times more massive than Earth, it’s the second-least dense planet in our entire solar system. The only planet that is less dense than Uranus is Saturn. Which is also surprising given its size and makeup.
So what does it matter that it’s less dense? A lot actually, the density of the planet helps contribute to its makeup on a grander scale. For example, the density of Earth helps ensure that gravity is just right for us to live with. In contrast, on Uranus, if you were able to feel the gravity, it would be much less than Earth’s because of the lack of density.
That being said, clearly having such a low density hasn’t caused the planet too many hardships. It’s still around, and that probably makes it even weirder.
Uranus Is Built On A Funny Tilt
Yes, I did just reference Schoolhouse Rock, you’re welcome.
Without a doubt, the most mysterious and strange thing about Uranus as a whole is the fact that it’s positioned on its side. Which is something that no other planet in our solar system is like. Some have tilts, like Saturn, but never a full tilt like Uranus did.
This gives off a pretty interesting effect to those who look at it from afar, not the least of which is because its rings are now vertical in orientation and not horizontal like the other planets that have rings in our solar system.
So what is it that caused Uranus to have such a “funny tilt”? The biggest theory is that a long time ago, something collided with the planet, not unlike the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. But when this entity collided with Uranus, it quite literally moved the planets axis and poles. Causing the sideways planet as a result.
And because of this, the South Pole of Uranus is always facing the sun, while the North Pole is pointed towards the darkness of space.