Uranus is the seventh planet out from the Sun. Its orbit keeps it 1784 million km away on average and takes 84 years to complete.
Uranus tilts so far on its side that it seems to roll around the Sun like a gigantic bowling ball. The angle of its tilt is 98°, in fact, so its equator runs top to bottom. This tilt may be the result of a collision with a meteor or another planet a long time ago.
In summer on Uranus, the Sun does not set for 20 years. In winter, darkness lasts for over 20 years. In autumn, the Sun rises and sets every nine hours.
Uranus has 17 moons, all named after characters in William Shakespeare’s plays. There are five large moons – Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon and Miranda. The ten smaller ones were discovered by the Voyager 2 space probe in 1986.
Uranus’ moon Miranda is the weirdest moon of all. It seems to have been blasted apart, and then put itself back together again!
Because Uranus is so far from the Sun, it is very, very cold, with surface temperatures dropping to – 210°C. Sunlight takes just eight minutes to reach Earth, but 2.5 hours to reach Uranus.
Uranus’ icy atmosphere is made of hydrogen and helium. Winds whistle around the planet at over 2000 km/h – ten times as fast as hurricanes on Earth. Uranus has its own, very faint set of rings.
Uranus’ surface is an ice-cold ocean of liquid methane (natural gas), thousands of kilometers deep, which give the planet its beautiful color. If you fell into this ocean even for a fraction of a second, you would freeze so hard that you would shatter like glass.
Uranus is only faintly visible from Earth. It looks no bigger than a star through a telescope, and was not identified until 1781.
Uranus was named after Urania, the ancient Greek goddess of astronomy.
Uranus is the third largest planet in the Solar System — 51,118 km across and with a mass 14.54 times that of the Earth’s. The planet spins round once every 17.24 hours, but because it is lying almost on its side, this has almost no effect on the length of its day. Instead, this depends on where the planet is in its orbit of the Sun. Like Saturn, Uranus has rings, but they are much thinner and were only detected in 1977. They are made of the darkest material in the Solar System. Uranus has an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium gas. The planet’s surface of liquid methane gives it a stunning blue color.