Ur-anus... your mouth drops open in shock and seconds later you imitate a fish out of water. Now you are thinking, what is the topic of conversation in this article? And how low can we go?
Get your mind out of the gutter and let's dig a hole into the bottomless pit of secrets for Uranus... the planet.
Uranus The Planet
So you think we are the only blue/green planet in our Solar System? Think again... Uranus is not only more distinctively blue/green than our planet but also bigger than Earth. Uranus is a gas giant, although smaller than Jupiter and Saturn it is still four times the size of Earth. It has a diameter of 31,765 miles that is 51,120km and weighs about 14 Earths. Uranus' composition resembles the Sun's gas makeup with Hydrogen and Helium amid liberal trickles of Methane that dance along the surface giving Uranus that luminescent bold blue/green color.
Uranus is also known as an ice giant because there are remnants of water, ammonia and hydrocarbon in its composition, which account for Uranus being the coldest planet in the Solar System. The temperature is a minimum of about -224.2 degree Celsius and the 'solid' parts are mostly ice. For years this planet had astronomers baffled because of the peculiar way in which its moons were orbiting, until they discovered that Uranus is tilted at 98 degrees.
Uranus has 27 moons but 5 moons are larger than the rest and only these 5 were named: Miranda (290 miles in diameter), Ariel (720 miles in diameter), Umbriel (730 miles in diameter), Titania (980 miles in diameter) and Oberon (945 miles in diameter). A Uranian day will last 17 hours and 15 minutes yet Uranus circles the Sun once every 84 years.
Uranus has thirteen very thin charcoal black rings; these were discovered in 1977 almost by accident. Uranus had a very close encounter with a star and as the star passed by this extraordinary planet, scientists noticed that the starlight was dimming intermittently, on closer inspection they realized that Uranus actually has rings and this is what caused the starlight to dim out as it passed by.
These rings are very thin and quite faint which is why they are not visible from earth through telescopes.
Uranus at Opposition
Uranus will be in a perfect position for viewing through either a refractive telescope or a reflective telescope on the 11th October 2015. The best time to view Uranus is when it is in perigee in opposition to the Sun. This simply means that Uranus will be on its closest trajectory to earth and will pass directly opposite the sun. When this celestial event of note occurs there will be an alignment between Uranus, the Sun and Earth causing Uranus to appear very large and much brighter than usual.
We all look up and are awed by our ceiling of stars, This is just the surface of another world. It's time to take a closer look. Every year there are many awe inspiring celestial events and Uranus at opposition is another one not to be missed.
So be curious about the other blue/green planet and be sure to get yourself ready for the 11th October 2015. Clean off your telescope and prepare yourself for a classic astronomical voyage.