- The seventh planet from the Sun, it was not known in ancient times, unlike the planets from Mercury to Saturn.
- Uranus was first seen by William Herschel in 1781 during a survey of the sky using a telescope. In 1782 George III appointed Herschel as Astronomer Royal.
- William Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany. He moved to England in 1757 in order to follow a career as a musician but after buying a book on astronomy he became interested only in watching the sky.
- Herschel also discovered 2 of Uranus’ moons with a larger telescope.
Uranus has a total of 27
- , most of whom are named after characters in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The five major moons are called Titania, Oberon, Miranda, Ariel and Umbriel. Umbriel is not from Shakespeare but is the “melancholy sprite” in a poem by Alexander Pope.
Figure 1: Uranus and its moon Ariel, the white dot, and Ariel’s shadow.
- Uranus is one of the “gas giants”, the four outer planets which are entirely composed of gas, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
- Most of the centre of Uranus is a frozen mass of ammonia and methane, which gives it the blue-green colour. The atmosphere also contains hydrogen and helium.
- Uranus orbits the Sun lying on its side and takes 84 years to complete one orbit. The Earth goes round the Sun in 365 days, one year.