Uranus is the third largest planet in the Solar System and it lies twice as far away from the Sun as its neighbouring planet Saturn. It is grey-blue in colour and has very little surface features and it has a diameter width of 51,116 km. Like Saturn, Uranus has a ring system and a large family of moons around it. The planet however, is tipped on its side (98 degrees), and from Earth the rings appear to wrap around it from top to bottom.
Uranus was the first planet to be discovered by Telescope by Astronomer William Herschel in the year 1781. However, it was the NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft that provided our first close-up images of the planet. It takes Uranus 84 Earth years to complete one Uranian year or one full orbit of the Sun. Uranus is a very big planet and has the mass of 14.5 times that of the Earth’s. It is made mainly of water, rock, methane, ammonia ices and a layer of gases. The planet has no solid surface so its atmosphere is most of its make-up. The composition of its surrounding atmosphere consists of Hydrogen (82.5%), Helium (15%), Methane (2.3%) and other (0.2). Its average distance from the Sun is approximately 2.87 billion km’s. A Uranian day takes 17.24 hours to dawn as opposed to an Earth day of 24 hours. When observing Uranus in the night sky, it has a magnitude of 5.5.
The planet has 11 rings around it, measuring from about 12,500 km to 25,500 km and these are composed of a charcoal carbon-rich material and also of dust. The planet has a cloud top temperature of -215 degrees Celsius.
Uranus has 27 known moons, which are all named after the characters of William Shakespeare plays and Alexander Pope’s poems. The moons can be divided up into three groups accordingly: The major moons- Titania, Oberon, Ariel, Umbriel, Miranda;
The irregular moons- Francesco, Caliban, Stephano, Trinculo, Sycorax, Prospero, Setibos, Ferdinand, Margaret, Rosalind, Portia, Bianca, Belinda; The inner moons- Cordelia, Ophelia, Mab, Puck, Desdemona, Juliet, Cressida, Peridita, Cupid. Titania is Uranus’s largest moon, at a little less than half the size of our own Moon, it has a siameter of 1,578 km. Miranda is the smallest of the moons at 480 km in width. More discoveries are expected when NASA launch more missions such as their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer which tends to study our Solar System, Milky Way and Universe.