How did Uranus get tilted so much that it spins on its side? This question has made many a scientist wonder. New research looking back at the planet’s early formation points to a young proto-planet of rock and ice colliding with Uranus, causing its extreme tilt. Instead of rotating like a top spinning nearly upright, as Earth does, the planet “rolls” on its side as it circles the Sun.
While it is the butt of many jokes, Uranus is actually a fascinating world to study. It is about four times wider than Earth orbiting our Sun at a distance of about 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers). Uranus takes about 17 hours to rotate once (a Uranian day), and about 84 Earth years to complete an orbit of the Sun (a Uranian year). Uranus has 27 known moons, and they are named after characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. With 13 known rings, we've seen that the inner rings are narrow and dark and the outer rings are brightly colored.
This false-color image was generated by Erich Karkoschka using data taken on August 8, 1998, with the @NASAHubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
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