Uranus Facts – 12 Interesting Facts about Uranus
- The Name Uranus is Over 2,500 Years Old
- The Name Uranus Comes from the Same Root Word as Urine
- Uranus Was One of the Last Planets to Be Found in the 1700’s
- William Herschel Discovered Uranus in 1781
- William Herschel First Named the Planet Uranus as Georgium Sidus
- The Planet Uranus Was Almost Named Neptune
- Uranus Receives 1/400th the Energy that Earth Receives from the Sun
- Scientists Speculate Uranus May Have an Ocean of Liquid Diamond
- Brrrr … Uranus is over 350 Degrees Below Zero
- Uranus Has 27 Moons and 11 Rings
- Uranus Spins Parallel to its Orbital Plane
- Uranus Has Winds Over 500 Miles Per Hour
1. The Name Uranus is Over 2,500 Years Old
Nearly all the planets in the solar system get their names from Roman Mythology. The names we use for the planets are the names that the Romans used for the Gods they worshipped. The Romans had adopted their Gods from Greek Mythology. For instance, the Greek god Zeus was called Jupiter by the Romans. Also, the planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war, who the Romans renamed from the Greek god Ares.
The first of our surprising Uranus facts is that the planet is the only one that kept its name from Greek mythology. Uranus comes from Ouranos, the Greek God of the sky. When the Romans adopted Uranus as the God of the sky, his name was Caelus. The spelling of Uranus was changed to reflect Latin spelling conventions, but the first of our Uranus facts is that the name of the planet comes from Greek Mythology.
In Greek Mythology, Uranus was Father Sky and was married to Gaia, Mother Earth. Uranus and Gaia were the parents of the first generation of Gods, the Titans. The Olympians, including Zeus, Apollo, and other Gods, replaced the Titans. The Roman names of these Olympian Gods were used to name most of the planets, including Jupiter, Mars, Neptune and Venus. The second of our surprising Uranus facts is that although Uranus was discovered later, the name Uranus is from an earlier God than the Gods whose names were used for most of the other planets.
2. The Name Uranus Comes from the Same Root Word as Urine
People often joke about the pronunciation of Uranus because it sounds like a part of the body. There are actually two ways to pronounce the word. Scientists prefer to put the stress on the first syllable. The pronunciation that sounds like a part of the body puts the stress on the second syllable. Both are accepted pronunciations.
Another surprising fact, and one of our first funny Uranus facts, is that the word urine actually comes from the same root word as Uranus. As long as we don’t take ourselves too seriously, this is one of the fun Uranus facts for kids because it can help children learn about the origins of words. The origin of Uranus and urine is a very old root word which was used in Proto-Indo-European.
Proto-Indo-European is an ancient language that predated Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Many words that form the basis of words we use today were used in Proto-Indo-European. These words are called root words. The root word of Uranus and urine in Proto-Indo-European was pronounced something like ouers and meant to moisten or to drip. The word evolved to mean to rain in Sanskrit and Greek.
It makes sense that the name of the God of the sky would be connected with a word meaning to rain. It also makes sense that the word urine would be connected to a word meaning to drip. The meanings are closely related today, as kids who are potty-training may joke that they are making it rain. It’s certainly one of the funny and surprising Uranus facts that the word Uranus and the word urine are related by their root words. This is one of the more educational Uranus facts, especially when compared to the fact about the pronunciation of the word, which doesn’t teach us much about history or language.
3. Uranus Was One of the Last Planets to Be Found in the 1700’s
As people looked up at the sky throughout history, many people saw the pale blue dot of Uranus. There was speculation as to what the blue dot actually was. Early Greek astronomers labeled it as a star, and this belief was carried through history for over a thousand years.
When telescopes were invented, and the ability to see objects in the night sky improved, more Uranus facts began to emerge. In the late 1700s, European astronomers in France and England observed Uranus and began to record their observations and establish the first Uranus facts.
4. William Herschel Discovered Uranus in 1781
It was only in 1781 that Uranus facts began to receive widespread recognition. Sir William Herschel was watching Uranus through a telescope when he speculated that it was a comet and not a star.
Herschel presented his findings to the Royal Society. The Royal Society was a preeminent group of scientists from England and other parts of the world. In the meetings of the Royal Society, scientists would present their findings and conclusions from their experiments and observations.
Herschel presented the first Uranus facts to the Royal Society. Herschel noted that the size of Uranus changed when he adjusted his telescope, whereas the stars did not change size because they are much farther away. Herschel also noted that Uranus did not have the same type of light as stars, instead appearing hazy in his telescope.
5. William Herschel First Named the Planet Uranus as Georgium Sidus
Other astronomers across Europe, including Johann Elert Bode in Germany, observed Uranus and suggested that it was a planet and not a star. Bode took measurements and established some of the first Uranus facts about the orbit of Uranus. Seeing that there was a stable orbit and no tail, such as those found on a comet, most concluded that it was a planet.
In 1783, Herschel acknowledged to the Royal Society that it was a planet and was given the privilege of naming the new planet. Herschel chose the odd name Georgium Sidus in honor of England’s King George III who had given Herschel a salary for discovering the planet.
6. The Planet Uranus Was Almost Named Neptune
It’s another of the surprising and fun Uranus facts that the planet was almost named Neptune. People outside of Britain did not like the name Georgium Sidus and a Swedish astronomer proposed the name Neptune.
Bode suggested that the name of the planet should be Uranus. Saturn was the Roman name of the Titan God who was the father of Jupiter. Bode suggested the name based on one of the Uranus facts from Greek mythology. Uranus was the father of Saturn, or Cronus in Greek Mythology, and using this name would keep the same naming convention used to name Saturn. In other words, Saturn was the father of Jupiter, and Uranus was his grandfather. Why Bode didn’t suggest Caelus as the name of the planet, is unknown.
Bode’s name caught on, and even inspired the naming of a newly discovered element, uranium. The last of our Uranus facts relating to the name of Uranus is that it wasn’t until 1850 that the name Georgium Sidus was removed from reference books in Britain.
7. Uranus Receives 1/400th the Energy that Earth Receives from the Sun
The first of our astronomical Uranus facts is that Uranus is almost 3 billion kilometers, or more than 1.8 billion miles, from the Sun. This is roughly 20 times the distance that the Earth is from the Sun. One of the cold Uranus facts is that Uranus receives less intense heat and light from the Sun because it is so far away. Uranus receives roughly 1/400th of the intensity of energy from the Sun that the Earth does.
Because Uranus is farther away from the Sun than Earth, it takes much longer for it to complete an orbit around the Sun. On Earth we count a year every time we orbit the Sun. One of the timely Uranus facts is that it takes Uranus 84 years to complete its orbit around the Sun. Wow, that’s far out!
8. Scientists Speculate Uranus May Have an Ocean of Liquid Diamond
When we think about planets, we often assume that they are like the Earth, with a mass of land and an atmosphere. Some planets are indeed like this, and are considered rocky planets. It’s one of the light Uranus facts that Uranus is one the Gas Giants, a group of planets that includes Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Uranus is made mostly of gas and ice. Because they have a lot of ice – and to further distinguish the planets based on composition – Uranus and Neptune are also called the Ice Giants, while Jupiter and Saturn are only ever referred to as the Gas Giants.
It’s one of the surprisingly cold Uranus facts that the ice on Uranus is not mostly made up of water, like it is here on Earth. The ice on Uranus is frozen water, ammonia and methane. There is a small rocky core at the heart of Uranus. However, the largest part of the planet is a large layer of liquid and ice with an atmosphere of gas surrounding it.
When you consider the pronunciation of Uranus that people joke about, it might seem rather an apt Uranus fact that there is a lot of methane on Uranus. This is another of the Uranus fun facts for kids, and an opportunity to not take ourselves too seriously. We can teach kids about the composition of the atmosphere of different planets, and explain that there is methane here on Earth. Learning is fun when there is laughter involved. While jokes about the common pronunciation of Uranus by kids can be disruptive, it’s far better than other words they could use for that part of the body.
Uranus is big! The circumference of Uranus is 99,786 miles or 160,590 kilometers! That’s over four times the size of Earth! One of the impressive Uranus facts is that Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system. Uranus also has a large mass, though its mass is less than the other Gas Giants.
Some recent studies have revealed one of the most amazing Uranus facts: because of the size of Uranus and the molecular composition of methane, it’s speculated that the very bottom of the layer of ice on Uranus is not actually ice, but diamonds! The methane molecules break down under the extreme pressure of the liquid and ice, releasing carbon atoms that form diamonds. There may even be a sea of liquid diamond with diamond icebergs at the base of the liquid and ice layer on Uranus.
9. Brrrr … Uranus is over 350 Degrees Below Zero
We’ve established the Uranus facts that the planet is a large collection of gas and ice and has a small rocky core. Even though it is mostly ice, and Uranus is far away from the Sun, Uranus is a lot colder than we might expect it to be. In fact, it’s colder than Neptune, which is similar in composition and further away from the Sun.
One of the surprising Uranus facts is that Uranus is the coldest planet, with the lowest recorded temperature in the solar system. The temperature of Uranus is over 350 degrees Fahrenheit below zero or over 220 degrees Celsius below zero!
The most elusive of Uranus facts is just why the temperature of the planet is so low. Some theories have suggested there was an impact with another object in our solar system that knocked away some material, and that caused a lot of the stored heat energy escaped from the planet. Other scientists have proposed that there is something in the composition of the layers of Uranus that prevents heat energy from escaping.
10. Uranus Has 27 Moons and 11 Rings
Uranus may be cold, and very far from the Sun, but it’s not alone! Uranus has 27 moons orbiting it. Voyager 2 was a spacecraft that revealed many of the Uranus facts that we know today. Voyager 2 flew by Uranus, performed measurements, and took photographs of the planet in 1986.
It’s surprising that many Uranus facts were only discovered so recently. It reminds us that while modern telescopes are amazing, Uranus is very far away. Voyager 2 discovered 10 new moons of Uranus that astronomers had not previously known about.
Astronomers knew that Uranus had rings of material circling the planet, similarly to Saturn. As early as 1789 Herschel had documented what he thought might be a ring around Uranus. Astronomers discovered more rings over time. In 1986, Voyager 2 discovered two new rings in its exploration of Uranus, bringing the total number of known rings to 11. Based on their age, it’s likely that the rings were formed from collisions between Uranus’ many moons.
Telescopes have continued to play a role in discovering new Uranus facts, despite the success of the Voyager 2 mission. The Hubble Space Telescope discovered two more rings in 2005. The total number of rings around Uranus is currently thought to be 13.
11. Uranus Spins Parallel to its Orbital Plane
One of the most peculiar Uranus facts, and perhaps one of the most well-known Uranus facts, is that Uranus does not rotate on a similar axis to the Earth and other planets. Most planets, like Earth, rotate on an axis that is perpendicular to their orbit around the Sun.
This is another one of the Uranus fun facts for kids. Imagine a top spinning on a table and going around a bowl in the middle. Most planets spin like the top. Now, imagine taking the top and putting it on its side so the bottom of the top is pointing at the bowl instead of at the table. Now picture slowly spinning the top, while holding it with your hand against the table and moving it around around the bowl in the middle. This is how Uranus orbits the Sun. Some people describe this by saying that Uranus is lying on its side.
The spinning of the Earth’s molten core generates the Earth’s magnetic field. Perhaps due to its sideways spin, Uranus has a peculiar magnetic field. It’s one of the strange Uranus facts that the magnetic field of Uranus is tilted away from its axis of rotation.
This is also one of the Uranus facts we aren’t fully able to explain, because astronomers are not quite sure why Uranus’ magnetic field is tilted in a different orientation than those of most planets. Some astronomers have suggested that the liquid and ice layers of the planet create a different type of magnetic field. More speculation on the cause of the peculiar magnetic field links the behavior of the magnetic field to the possible oceans of liquid diamond that affect the magnetic field.
12. Uranus Has Winds Over 500 Miles Per Hour
It’s one of the sure Uranus facts that everything about Uranus seems to be bigger than here on Earth. When it comes to the atmosphere and weather, there’s no exception. Uranus’ big atmosphere creates some massive storms.
Like the temperature of Uranus, the size of the storms on Uranus is one of the more shocking Uranus facts. Scientists have observed storms on Uranus that are as large as the continental United States! The speed of the winds in these storms exceeds 500 miles per hour, or over 800 kilometers per hour! That’s three times as strong as a hurricane here on Earth.
Because the orbit of Uranus is so large, its seasons are also extremely long. Uranus takes 84 years to orbit the sun, and each orbit of the sun has four seasons. Imagine summer lasting for 21 years! Although, given the temperatures on Uranus, it may seem more like winter lasts forever!
Fun Uranus facts are a great way to get kids excited about astronomy and science. Uranus can be pronounced like a part of the body and this can be disruptive for learning. When we don’t take ourselves too seriously and put our children’s education first, we can make use of the jokes about Uranus to teach our kids about astronomy, chemistry, and the origins of words in our language.
Scientists continue to discover Uranus facts. This mysterious blue planet that was once thought to be a star will continue to reveal more discoveries about life in the solar system and life on Earth.
Interesting Facts about Uranus Summary
All throughout history people have looked up at the sky and wondered about distant worlds. In modern times, astrology has been replaced by astronomy, as scientists seek to learn facts about the Universe. The planets that orbit the Sun in our solar system have been the subjects of many scientific studies.
Along with the other planets, scientists have sought to learn about Uranus. Uranus facts teach us more about our solar system. Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, with only Neptune being farther away from the Sun than Uranus.
Learning Uranus facts is a great way for kids to get excited about astronomy. When we point a telescope to the sky, we are looking for new discoveries that can tell us about life here on the ground. Discovering Uranus facts can help us discover more facts about life on Earth.