Located at least 1.6 billion miles away from Earth, Uranus is not usually visible with the naked eye and was the first planet discovered through the use of a telescope. Due to the planet’s axial tilt, it can seem as if the planet is rolling on its side during its 84 (Earth) year journey around the Sun. As a result of this tilt, the poles receive more sunlight than the equatorial regions.
Voyager 2, which is the only spacecraft to flow past Uranus, returned the first close-up images of the planet, its moons, and its rings in 1986. Uranus has 2 sets of rings that were probably formed when the planet’s moons were broken up in some impact.
The 27 moons of Uranus are not named after Greek mythology, rather they are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope with the 5 main satellites being Miranda (from Shakespeare’s The Tempest), Ariel (named for both The Tempest and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock), Umbriel (from The Rape of the Lock), Titania, and Oberon (named for the fairy queen and king from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream). All of these moons are known to be frozen with dark surfaces.
Uranus is one of the big gas giants, but is referred to as an “ice giant.” While its upper layer is hydrogen mixed with helium, like Saturn and Jupiter, the atmosphere contains more ices, such as water, ammonia, and methane, and the interior is mainly composed of rock and ice.
Although it is not the farthest planet from the Sun, Uranus actually has the coldest atmosphere in the Solar System with a minimum atmospheric temperature of -371 degrees Fahrenheit.
While there isn’t much of interest occurring on the planet’s surface, 2014 was a year of extreme storm activity on Uranus, according to researchers. They reported that all storms were in the northern hemisphere and one storm was incredibly bright, reflecting 30% as much light as the rest of the planet.
Since 2007, when the Sun shined directly on Uranus’ equator and lit up both poles, the planet has become more active, although scientists are unsure why there was a peak in activity in August 2014.
Uranus is has a mass of 86,810,300,000,000,000 billion kg, which is 14.5 times larger than that of Earth. Discovered in 1781, it is 19.22 AU and has 27 moons orbiting around it. Its temperature is around -190 °C.