Uranus May Not be As Boring as it Seems

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Most of the planets in our solar system have an identifiable trait that sets them apart. On the rocky ones you can easily spot traces of collisions and proof that the core of the planet is active and dedicated.

With the exception of Mercury all of them have an atmosphere that protects them to some degree from the harmful radiation of the Sun. The Earth has life. On Venus sulfuric acid rains from the sky and melts almost everything.

And then we have Uranus. Out of all the planets in the Solar System Uranus lacks any distinctive features that would set it apart. When the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by the planet it didn’t manage to discover anything that was new or surprising.

If we look at Uranus from Earth we will perceive what seems to be a small turquoise disk.  Voyager 2 had previously sent back surprising images that revealed the savage storms that take place on Jupiter and the beautiful rings of Saturn.

Compared to them Uranus appeared to be a featureless world that has nothing to offer. Researchers believed that the planet is unable to generate its own heat and depended on the energy provided by the Sun. It was the cold that made it look so barren, with an upper atmosphere temperature that managed to reach 58 degrees Kelvin.

In a surprise plot twist some astronomers discovered that the planet does have a distinctive trait that manages to set it apart from its brothers.  The rotation of the other planets is influenced by the Sun but Uranus has a dramatically different rotation, similar to rolling a barrel.

The atmosphere of the planet features a thick layer of methane. Since Uranus needs 84 years in order to complete a revolution around the Sun researchers have a limited window of opportunity when the planet reaches the transition between the solstice and the equinox.

By comparing images taken during the Voyager 2 mission with images taken by Hubble the researchers were able to discover that storms take place in its atmosphere. A dedicated mission would provide a lot of interesting information about the blue giant.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.