Top Uranus Facts
What year was Uranus discovered?
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I'm Robert Massey and I'm here from the Royal Astronomical Society which is one of the biggest astronomical organizations in the world and we look after the interests of astronomers not just in the UK but across the world. What I'm going to do today is give you a few pointers to get you started in astronomy which I think is one of the most incredibly interesting subjects there is. Uranus is the second most distant planet from the sun. It's a really long way away, twice as far as Saturn and it's quite hard to spot with the eye. It's just out of the threshold of visibility. Perhaps it's for that reason we didn't know about it until 1781 when it was discovered by the astronomer William Herschel using a telescope from his backyard garden in the city of Bath in Southwest England. We now know that it's a fairly big world, not as big as Jupiter and Saturn, but nonetheless a good size, quite a few times the size of the Earth and it has an atmosphere of hydrogen, helium and methane, these very light gases, and its own retinue of moons. It also has its own very faint ring system, too. So, Uranus is quite an exotic place but it's really rather a long way from the sun and so it's very hard to know much about it without space probes and fortunately for us, the Voyager 2 probe took some very close-up images of this planet right back in 1986. As a result, we've learnt a lot more about it from there. But as telescopes on Earth get better, we should find out a lot more in the years ahead. One of the odd things about Uranus is that it's a world that's tipped over on its side. Imagine that the Earth's axis wasn't tilted a little bit, 23 and a half degrees as it is, what was like Uranus, a 98 degrees. And it looks as though at some point in its past, it went through a very vile event that literally knocked it right over. That means that if you were living on Uranus, not like that's possible to do but if you were, you'd have a summer that would last 42 years and at some point, some would be directly overhead and then it would sink down. Very very strange place, a very very strange world, very very strange groups of satellites around it. This planet's a long way from the sun, it's a very very strange world. The fact that this planet is knocked over on its side makes it rather unusual. It's got its own retinue of exotic moon around it as well, very interesting places to live. One of them has incredibly high cliffs, so quite a place to go out sailing if ever you fancy that, but again I don't think it's really likely that people would go there in the near future. It's simply too far away. It would take years and years to get there and who's really willing to sign up for a twenty-year roundtrip so we'll probably to content ourselves of building bigger telescopes on Earth and in space to study planets like Uranus from nearby rather than travelling there too often. .
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