Uranus

This is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986.

This is an image of the planet Uranus taken by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986, processed to look just like it would to human eyes. Voyager 2 is the only space mission to visit Uranus. It passed at a distance of 82,000 kilometres.

Many images of Uranus (most astronomy pictures, in fact) use light that human eyes can’t see, and computer processing of the pictures to show up things that we can’t easily see in the photos.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Uranus image, showing dark spot in the atmosphere.

This photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has been altered to highlight weather features in the atmosphere. Uranus seems to be very similar to Neptune, but its atmosphere is less active.

The picture from 2007 shows a dark spot forming, which had not been there before. Scientists think this may be because northern Uranus is coming into its springtime. That could make the weather change as the Sun becomes a bit stronger. Each season lasts 21 years on Uranus!

Uranus factfile 
Position from the sun7th planet
Diameter 49,000 km
Distance from sun2,870,000,000 km
Day length 17.2 hours
Year length 84 years
Number of moons27
Surface temperature-224 °C
Gravity8.9 m/s2
AtmosphereHydrogen, helium, methane
FUN FACT: The radioactive element Uranium was named after the planet Uranus.
Newly Discovered Moon and Rings of Uranus
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

Uranus has thin rings that move around a bit.

The pictures, taken two years apart by the Hubble Space Telescope show how the angle of the ring system changes over time.

Part of the reason why the rings appear to change position is because of Uranus’ unusual rotation. It’s axis is turned over at nearly 90 degrees to the axis of its orbit round the Sun. This is shown in the picture of the Rings of Uranus.

An illustration showing the position of the rings of Uranus from 1965 to 2028.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)

Activity

Uranus is named after the Greek god who was ‘Father Sky’, or the main god of heaven. Many space objects are named after gods from different cultures. All the other planets are named after gods from Ancient Rome. If this planet had been named for Roman mythology, it would have been called Caelus, their version of Uranus.

Painting of The_Return_of_Neptune_by_John_Singleton_Copley from 1754

Choose any four space objects, and research the mythology behind their names. Next, write a new myth about what happened when all four met up.

You could also draw a picture to show your new myth, like this painting from 1754 called The Return of Neptune, by John Singleton Copley.

You might want to choose your space objects so that your myth could reflect something happening in space. For example, maybe a comet might crash into an asteroid and send it flying towards a planet and a moon. What would that mean for the gods or creatures in your myth story?

There are many websites that will give you information about space objects, and many others that will tell you about the myths in different cultures. You could search the Internet looking for ‘mythology’, ‘legend’, ‘Greek myths’, ‘Roman myths’, ‘space objects’.


You can go to the previous secret pages by clicking the planets below.

The MoonVenusMercury
Moon landing sites for Apollo missions
The SunMarsAsteroids
An image of the Sun in 2018 when it had no sunspots.
JupiterSaturn
Hubble Views of JupiterQuadruple Saturn moon transit snapped by Hubble