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  • Elizabeth Cocking

Did you know: Uranus


This month . . . . Uranus. Our seventh planet in the solar system family and the first planet discovered in modern history.

Uranus is the first planet to be found with the aid of a telescope. The planet was too dim to be seen by ancient civilizations and remained hidden in the darkness of the sky It was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel, although he originally thought it was either a comet or a star. The image above is courtesy NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has detected six distinct clouds in images taken July 28, 1997. Hubble also captured eight moons in this image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/STScI

Uranus is known as the “sideways planet” because it rotates on its side. This unique sideways rotation makes for weird seasons. The planet's north pole experiences 21 years of night-time in winter, 21 years of daytime in summer and 42 years of day and night in the spring and fall.

It is the only planet in the Solar System that takes its name from Greek (rather than Roman) mythology. According to Greek mythology Uranus is the Greek god of the sky. Although, when William Herschel discovered the planet he wanted to name it Georgium Sidus (The Georgian Star) after his monarch King George III.

Like Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune, Uranus is a ringed planet. It has 13 known rings. The inner rings are narrow and dark, and the outer rings are brightly coloured.

Scientists named the radioactive element, uranium, eight years after the planet was discovered. There is a common tradition after naming a new planet to name a newly discovered element after that planet. In the case of Uranus, the chemical element Uranium, discovered in 1789, was named after the newly discovered planet.


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