Scientific Facts about Uranus

Graphic from Pixabay

Many websites are devoted to jokes about Uranus, including jokojokes.com, which offers 63 of them in one place. There’s even a whole website just for knock-knock jokes about Uranus. NASA has noted that “Uranus is the butt of more than a few jokes and witty…puns.” Professor Martha Juptner of UC-Berkeley, who has tried to determine why these jokes have continued for over 230 years, reached the conclusion that 78% of people who think Uranus jokes are funny are “idiots.”

And that’s why this essay will contain no jokes, no attempts at sophomoric, vulgar humor of any kindonly verified, authoritative scientific facts.

First off, there are photos all over the internet of Uranusbut all of them were taken through a telescope. This is because Uranus is too dark to see with the naked eyedespite the fact that Uranus is hugefour times larger than Earth. According to solarsystem.nasa.gov, if Earth were a large apple, Uranus would be a basketball. Think about thatUranus the size of a basketball.

Uranus has rings around it, at least 13 of them. NASA reports that “the inner rings are narrow and dark and the outer rings are brightly colored.” It sounds like Uranus is some kind of bullseye on a cosmic dartboard. That’s just a metaphor; I’m not suggesting that anyone throw darts at Uranus.

NASA further notes that the clouds around Uranus contain hydrogen sulfide gas, which means it probably smells like rotten eggs. NASA, not surprisingly, concludes that “Uranus cannot support life as we know it.” Still, it’s not hard to imagine that, someday, billionaires might colonize Uranus. Jeff Bezos bivouacking on Uranus—just imagine! Why, in no time, he’d make Uranus a prime location.

Another scientific source, Odyssey magazine, says that the gravity of Uranus is only slightly less than the gravity we’re used to. For an example, Odyssey offers, “A 200-pound man would weigh 172 pounds if he were standing on Uranus.” Let that sink in: a man could lose 28 pounds just by standing on Uranus. That’s a fact.

No spacecraft has been able to orbit Uranus. Not yet. That means Uranus has so far not been studied up close or at length. However, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey has proposed sending a probe to Uranus by 2023. If the probe is launched, it’ll take 13 years to reach Uranus. That means we may know many more intimate details about Uranus in as little as 15 years.

Other facts include that Uranus moves really, really fast. According to everyfactever.com, based on its orbital speed, Uranus could get from London to Paris in under a minute. It’s staggering to contemplate that Uranus could cover that much ground, that fast.

And Uranus has an equatorial bulge (Ouch!) and thus “looks like a slightly flattened ball” (everyfactever.com).

That’s all I have to report at this time. Thank you truly for allowing me to explore, in depth, Uranus.  

(Bill Spencer is author of Uranus Is Always Funny: Short Essays to Make You Laugh.)

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