We get asked more about Uranus than any other planet. In fact, we get asked about Uranus more than almost anything we can think of.
So for one day, we are going all in on the most asked Uranus questions to clear the air and exorcise the Uranus demons!
Let us satisfy that Uranus itch.
Annnnnnnnd... Let's go!
1. Does Uranus Support Life?
Uranus' environment is not conducive to life as we know it. The temperatures, pressures and materials that characterize this planet are most likely too extreme and volatile for organisms to adapt to.
2. Is Uranus Dangerous?
To humans? Yes.
There's nothing to help us breathe or survive at all. It's average temperature is -213.889 Celsius. Not good for living, unfortunately.
Is it dangerous to anyone? Kinda.
The planet Uranus contains a significant amount of hydrogen and methane, both highly flammable gases. But could it explode?
Burning methane or hydrogen requires oxygen. Simply put, there is no free oxygen on the planet Uranus. On earth, we are so immersed in oxygen that we tend to take it for granted. Many chemical reactions that require oxygen seem to just happen automatically on earth: metals rust, forests catch fire, and candles burn.
3. Does Uranus Have A Dark Side?
In the conventional sense, no.
It orbits the sun like most other planets and is not subject to tidal locking as a moon would be.
One day on Uranus takes about 17 hours (the time it takes for Uranus to rotate or spin once). And Uranus makes a complete orbit around the Sun (a year in Uranian time) in about 84 Earth years (30,687 Earth days).
However, the rings of Uranus are oriented edge-on to Earth in 2007 for the first time since their 1977 discovery. This event provides a rare opportunity to observe their dark (unlit) side, where dense rings darken to near invisibility, but faint rings become much brighter. We present a ground-based infrared image of the unlit side of the rings that shows that the system has changed dramatically since previous views. A broad cloud of faint material permeates the system but is not correlated with the well-known narrow rings or with the embedded dust belts imaged by the Voyager spacecraft. Although some differences can be explained by the unusual viewing angle, we conclude that the dust distribution within the system has changed substantially since the 1986 Voyager encounter and that it occurs on much larger scales than has been seen in other planetary systems.
4. Why Is Uranus Lopsided?
Uranus is the only planet whose equator is nearly at a right angle to its orbit, with a tilt of 97.77 degrees—possibly the result of a collision with an Earth-sized object long ago.
Our solar system used to be a much more violent place, with protoplanets (bodies developing to become planets) colliding in violent giant impacts that helped create the worlds we see today. Most researchers believe that Uranus’ spin is the consequence of a dramatic collision and its unique tilt causes the most extreme seasons in the solar system. For nearly a quarter of each Uranian year, the Sun shines directly over each pole, plunging the other half of the planet into a 21-year-long, dark winter.
Uranus is also one of just two planets that rotate in the opposite direction than most of the planets (Venus is the other one), from east to west.
5. Can Uranus Float On Water?
The least dense planet in the Solar System is Saturn. In fact, if you could find a pool big enough it would float on it. Uranus comes in second as the least dense planet, but instead of floating, Uranus would actually sink in water.
This low density has an interesting little tale. Even though Uranus is 14.5 times as massive as the Earth, you would only experience about 89% the force of gravity if you could stand on its surface.
6. Can I see Uranus With The Naked Eye?
Yes, and without a telescope too. BUT, you will need some nifty binoculars. It is barely bright enough to see with the eyes, but you’ve got to have very dark skies and know exactly where to look.
For an ongoing report on where Uranus is in the sky, click this link.
7. How much would I weigh on Uranus?
As it’s gravity is not as strong as on Earth you would actually weigh less unlike on Jupiter.
And for you eggheads, this is how you calculate your exact weight on Uranus.
To find the weight on Uranus, we divide the weight on Earth by the Earth's force of gravity, which is 9.81m/s2 or...
Weight on Uranus= (Weight on Earth/9.81m/s2) * 8.69m/s2.
Uranus only has 89% of Earth's gravitational pull.
So you'd be 89% of your Earth weight.
If you weigh 32 kilograms on Earth, you would weigh 28 kilograms on Uranus. Pack smaller clothes for a visit here; well of course if you’re brave enough to go near this planet!
For a quick tool to calculate your weight on other planets, click here.
8. Can I Stand On Uranus?
Uranus is a ball of ice and gas, so you can’t really say that it has a surface. If you tried to land a spacecraft on Uranus, it would just sink down through the upper atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, and into the liquid icy center.
Then you'd die.
But let’s imagine that the surface of Uranus was actually solid, and you could walk around. Again, you would only experience 89% the gravity that you feel back on Earth even though Uranus has 14.5 times more mass than Earth and it has 63 times the volume. Uranus is the second least dense planet in the Solar System, so it has a relatively weak gravity on its surface.
9. Does Uranus Rain Diamonds?
According to theories about the planet, yes.
Under its atmospheric heat and pressure, ammonia and methane are chemically reactive.
Marvin Ross of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory first introduced the diamond-rain idea in a 1981 article in Nature titled, “The Ice Layer of Uranus and Neptune—Diamonds in the Sky?” He suggested that the carbon and hydrogen atoms of hydrocarbons such as methane separate at the high pressures and high temperatures inside the ice giant planets. Clusters of isolated carbon atoms would then be squeezed into a diamond structure, which is the most stable form of carbon under such conditions.
Diamond is denser than the methane, ammonia, and water left in the ice layer, so the carbon crystal would start to sink toward the planet’s core. It would accumulate new layers as it falls when it touches other isolated carbon atoms or diamonds, allowing individual diamond blocks to reach a size meters in diameter.
10. Who named Uranus?
Sir William Herschel found the seventh planet on March 13, 1781, while scouring the night sky for comets; he initially thought he'd discovered another icy body. When it came time to propose a moniker, he suggested naming it for his patron, King George III, which would have made it Georgium Sidus, or George's Star. But the name was not widely appreciated outside of England. "Herschel," after its discoverer, was also suggested, as was "Neptune."
Ultimately, German astronomer Johann Elert Bode (whose observations helped to establish the new object as a planet) named Uranus after an ancient Greek god of the sky. Bode argued that as Saturn was the father of Jupiter, the new planet should be named for the father of Saturn. (Uranus is also the only planet to be named after a Greek god rather than a Roman one.) Bode's colleague, Martin Klaproth, supported his choice and named his newly discovered element "uranium."
11. How Do You Pronounce "Uranus"?
Most people are taught that the name of the tilted planet sounds like "your-anus," a pronunciation sure to elicit snickers. It seems particularly humorous when you discuss the methane composition of Uranus, or you want to talk about how hot Uranus is. (You know you smiled a little.)
According to NASA, most scientists say YOOR-un-us. Unfortunately, because it is so rarely heard outside the walls of academia, it almost seems to call even more attention to the avoided pronunciation.
But to us lay folk, its usually "yurr-en-us" or at the very least, "your anus".
12. Does Uranus Have A Ring To It?
Uranus has two sets of rings. The inner system of nine rings consists mostly of narrow, dark grey rings. There are two outer rings: the innermost one is reddish like dusty rings elsewhere in the solar system, and the outer ring is blue like Saturn's "E" ring.
In order of increasing distance from the planet, the rings are called Zeta, 6, 5, 4, Alpha, Beta, Eta, Gamma, Delta, Lambda, Epsilon, Nu and Mu. Some of the larger rings are surrounded by belts of fine dust.
13. What Does Uranus Smell Like?
The upper atmosphere of Uranus is made up of hydrogen sulfide, the molecule that makes rotten eggs smell bad.
So, yes, Uranus stinks.
Don’t worry though. If you ever find yourself on Uranus, the lack of oxygen and the extreme cold “would take its toll long before the smell”, says Patrick Irwin, a professor of planetary physics at the University of Oxford, one of the co-authors on the research study.