Uranus is the butt of the Solar System‘s joke. It’s the weirdest planet, with a tilt of over 97 degrees and an orbit that’s opposite to most of the other planets. What that means is the polar regions face the Sun rather than the equator. It also moves in reverse to our orbit, like Venus. It’s a icy giant, but it has a rocky core. As a result, the Internet (and NASA) is full of lame factoid jokes. Here are some of our favourites.
- Uranus is full of gas.
Like the outer planets, it is mostly composed of ice and gas. It doesn’t have a solid surface. Instead, gas and ice mix in its interior with a small rocky core. The mix of gases in it are mostly methane and ammonia, with little hydrogen and helium.
- Uranus smells like farts.
Most recently scientists discovered hydrogen sulphide in its upper atmosphere. The gas is produced when eggs rot and in your farts. Incidentally, farts only contain 1% hydrogen sulphide, so Uranus smells like a super-potent fart.
- Uranus craps diamonds.
The core of of the planet has such powerful pressures and relatively high temperatures that it turns the carbon particles to diamonds. These are circulated into the atmosphere due to the many layers of clouds the planet has, that it rains diamonds. So if you’re looking for a planetary treasure hoard, you might want to look in Uranus.
- Uranus is a cold, cold place.
It’s in fact the coldest planet in the Solar System. Although it’s not the furthest from the Sun, it generates far less heat at its core than the other gas giants do. As a result, it has an average cloud temperature range of -226 deg C to -197 deg C.
- NASA flew by Uranus and snapped lots of pics.
There’s only been one single flyby past it, which makes it a highly un-researched object in the outer Solar System. The one single mission to capture images of Uranus was during the Voyager 2 approach, on January 24, 1986. It didn’t linger near Uranus; instead, it just shot lots of images and radioed them back to NASA, which went on to plaster images of Uranus all over the Internet.
- Uranus is huge.
It’s the fourth largest object in the Solar System, and the third largest planet. It’s as big as 63 Earths, with a diameter of over 51,000 kilometres. Now that’s big.
- We can see Uranus with the naked eye.
It’s a dim, blue fuzzy spot that’s usually right near the horizon and only appears near sunrise around Singapore, so it can be difficult to spot. But if you head further up or down from the equator, Uranus is not difficult to spot. It’s just a little dark.
- ‘Uranus is bleeding’ is an actual astrological (not astronomical) event.
If you believe in astrology (the pseudo-science that life events occur cos the planets move), then you may be interested to know there’s an annual event called “Uranus’ Bleeding”. It refers to a one week period when a red streak follows the planet’s path. There’s no particular reason why we brought it up; we just thought you should know Uranus is bleeding.
- The EU wants to probe Uranus.
In the last few years, the European Space Agency has wanted to send a probe to study Uranus. The plan is to launch it in 2022 or 2025, reaching it in 2037 and examine it in close detail. The highlight of this news? The probe will be called Uranus Pathfinder.
- Uranus produces a lot of wind.
The jetstreams on Uranus and Neptune are over 10 times more powerful than on Earth, which drives the wind speeds on these planets to over 900kmh. In comparison, the hurricanes on Earth only reach up to 305kmh.