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Planet Uranus; gas giant; planetary rings; ring system - Space Art Illustration
 

Uranus

This image suggests how Uranus might look from a position in space several hundred thousand miles above its south pole.

Like Saturn and Jupiter, Uranus is a Gas Giant, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium gases surrounding a relatively small, dense core of molten rock and metal. Its bluish color is due to the presence of methane in its upper atmosphere.

Also like Saturn and Jupiter, Uranus has rings. However Uranus' rings are over three orders of magnitude dimmer than Saturn's; where Saturn's rings are nearly white, Uranus' rings are more like the color of charcoal. Uranus' rings are so dim that they went undetected from 1781, when the English astronomer William Herschel first observed Uranus through a telescope, until 1977 when astronomers watched as a star passing behind Uranus appeared to blink several times, caused by the ten rings surrounding the planet.

One bizarre aspect of Uranus is that its axis of rotation is tipped beyond 90 degrees in relation to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. This puts Uranus' north and south poles, relative to the Sun, where the other planets have their equators.

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Rings and satellites data from National Space Science Data Center.

Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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