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This picture of Uranus was compiled from images recorded by Voyager 2 on January 10, 1986, when the NASA spacecraft was 18 million kilometers (11 million miles) from the planet.
Date of discovery March 13, 178113 March 1781
16 Adar 5541 He
47 Adar 5784 AM
Name of discoverer William Herschel[1]
Name origin Roman (and Greek) name for heaven and father of Saturn.[1]
Orbital characteristics
Celestial class Planet
Primary Sun
Order from primary 8
Perihelion 2,741,300,000 km18.324 AU
1,703,364,849.28 mi
Aphelion 3,003,620,000 km20.078 AU
1,866,362,940.428 mi
Semi-major axis 2,872,460,000 km19.201 AU
1,784,863,894.854 mi
Titius-Bode prediction 19.6 AU
Circumference 120.515 AU18,028,787,303.05 km
11,202,569,061.09 mi
Orbital eccentricity 0.0457[2]
Sidereal year 84.0016846 a30,681.615 da[3]
Synodic year 369.65 da1.012 a[2]
Avg. orbital speed 6.8352 km/s24,606.72 km/h
4.247 mi/s
15,289.907 mph
Inclination 0.744°0.013 rad
0.827 grad
to the ecliptic
Rotational characteristics
Sidereal day -17.24 h-0.718 da[3]
Axial tilt 97.86°1.708 rad
108.733 grad
Physical characteristics
Mass 8.6832 * 1025 kg14.53 M⊕
0.0457 M♃
Mean density 1,318 kg/m³1.318 g/ml
82.28 lb/ft³
Mean radius 25,362 km15,759.216 mi[3]
Equatorial radius 25,559 km15,881.626 mi[3]
Polar radius 24,973 km15,517.503 mi[3]
Surface gravity 8.69 m/s²28.51 ft/s²
0.886 g
Escape speed 21.30 km/s76,680 km/h
13.235 mi/s
47,646.743 mph
Surface area 8,084,000,000 km²3,121,249,849.657 mi²
15.849 A⊕
0.13 A♃
Mean temperature 76 K-197.15 °C
-322.87 °F
136.8 °R
Number of moons 27
Composition [[Composition::83% hydrogen, 15% helium and 2% methane]][4][5]
Color #99DDFF
Albedo 0.51[3]
Magnetic flux density 0.228 G2.28e-5 T[2]
Magnetic dipole moment at present 3 * 1024 N-m/T[6]
Magnetic dipole moment at creation 2.05 * 1025 N-m/T[7]
Decay time 3195 a1,166,973.75 da[8]
Half life 2215 a809,028.75 da[8]

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun, and the third largest. To superficial appearances, it is featureless and dull. Yet the circumstances of its formation, and the characteristics of the system of moons and rings that encircle it, make it one of the most remarkable planets in all the solar system.



William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781. He therefore earned a distinction as the first astronomer to discover a planet not previously known to the ancients. He at first wished to name this world "The Georgian Sidus" after the then-reigning king of Great Britain. But Johann Bode named Uranus after the convention of naming planets after classical gods and goddesses. In this case, Bode named Uranus after the god of heaven and father of all the other classical gods.


The original symbol for Uranus was a circle having a dot inside it, surmounted by a vertical spear. But the Unicode convention has substituted a different symbol consisting of the Roman letter "H" with a handle. The "H" stands for William Herschel, the discoverer.

Orbital characteristics

Uranus' average distance from the sun (semi-major axis) is 19.201 AU, which is close to the 19.6 AU predicted by the Titius-Bode Law. Its sidereal year is 84.00 Earth years. The orbital excentricity is 0.046, which is nearly circular (though the orbit of Earth is more circular still). Uranus' orbit is very slightly inclined to the plane of the ecliptic; in fact its orbital inclination with respect to the ecliptic is the least of those of all the planets.

Rotational characteristics

Uranus' sidereal day is 17.24 Earth hours. Uranus' rotation is retrograde with respect to its orbit around the Sun and the orbits of most of the other planets. Moreover its axis is tilted 97.86° with respect to its orbital plane, so that in a sense the planet is rolling on its side.

Physical characteristics

Uranus is a gas giant having a radius of 25,559 km (15,882 miles). Uranus’s atmosphere is about 83 % hydrogen, 15% helium, and 2% methane. The methane, more than any other constituent, gives Uranus its color.[5]


Voyager 2 did not resolve many more features than can be seen through an ordinary earthbound telescope. But seven years of observation by the Hubble Space Telescope have shown that Uranus' atmosphere is quite active. It has even developed a visible storm (the dark spot), which Voyager 2 did not capture.


Uranus has a magnetic field, whose axis is oriented 60° away from its rotational axis and, furthermore, is displaced from the center of mass by as much as one-third the planet's radius. Comparison of Uranus' present magnetic dipole moment with the expected magnetic dipole moment at creation[7] suggests a magnetic-field half-life of 2215 Julian years, slightly more than 1.5 times the half-life of the magnetic field of earth.

Ring system

Uranus has a total of thirteen rings. The brightest of these is the epsilon ring, which was until recently assumed to be the outermost. However, the Hubble telescope team subsequently discovered three more rings lying much further out from Uranus, together with another inner satellite, Mab, closely associated with one of them.

Difficulties for naturalistic theories

Formation of the planet

The nebular hypothesis would not even have allowed Uranus and its twin, Neptune, to form at its tremendous distance from the Sun in the time generally allotted. As the journal Astronomy stated the problem:

Pssst … astronomers who model the formation of the solar system have kept a dirty little secret: Uranus and Neptune don’t exist. Or at least computer simulations have never explained how planets as big as the two gas giants could form so far from the sun. Bodies orbited so slowly in the outer parts of the sun’s protoplanetary disk that the slow process of gravitational accretion would need more time than the age of the solar system to form bodies with 14.5 and 17.1 times the mass of Earth.[9]

Of course, the time allotted for the formation of the solar system is generally taken to be the alloted age of the Earth. The problem is that Uranus and Neptune would require more than twice the supposed age of the earth to accrete their present masses. In theory, the solar system could be older than the earth itself, but not much older. The solar system has other bodies in it that are much "younger." Nor does the above account for the body of evidence that the solar system is in fact quite young.

Desch[10] recognizes the problem, and supports a radical alteration of the nebula hypothesis that calls for a decretion disk, not an accretion disk. But even his model requires that Uranus and Neptune exchange places early in the process, primarily because Neptune, though about 10 AU further out from the Sun than is Uranus, is yet more massive.

Some have suggested that, since the planet Uranus would take longer to form at its present distance from the Sun than the entire age of the solar system, the planet Uranus formed much closer to the sun. The mechanism of its departure was interactions with the gravitational fields of Jupiter and Saturn. However, the Poincaré theorem, that disallows secular perturbations in the semi-major axis, is in direct contradiction to this explanation.[11]

Orientation of the Uranian system

According to evolutionary theories of how the Solar System formed (i.e. the nebular hypothesis), Uranus' axis should not be tilted 98 degrees with respect to its orbit. Moreover its moons orbit Uranus around its equator, like the hands of a clock around a clock face. Uranus' thirteen rings also are around its equator, so they look vertical. The nebular hypothesis predicts none of these observations.

Naturalistic astronomers theorize that Uranus originally formed upright, but suffered a collision with another object, producing its severe tilt. This, however, raises more questions:

  1. Why is its orbit less eccentric than those of all the other planets except only those of Venus, Neptune, and Earth?
  2. Why is Uranus' orbit less inclined to the ecliptic than is that of any planet except Earth?
  3. Why are the orbits of Uranus' moons so slightly inclined with respect to Uranus' present equator?[12] Indeed, the vertical orientation of Uranus' moons and of some of its rings was already well-known to astronomers before the Voyager 2 flyby. If the moons formed before the collision, then another series of precisely timed collisions would have been required to change the azimuths of all the orbits, and the rings—an absurd violation of Occam's razor. And if they formed after the collision, then in the absence of any condensing gas cloud, they ought to be inclined at random.

Naturalists try to explain that last by suggesting that Uranus' moons are leftover debris from the collision that tilted its axis. However, Uranus' moons make up only one hundredth of one percent of the mass of the planet, and an impact violent enough to knock the giant over would have produced far more debris than that. (Earth's Moon, also supposed to be the result of a giant collision involving its primary, has a mass of 1.23% that of earth.)[12][13] Moreover, not only are the moons of Uranus oriented well to Uranus' equator, but many of them orbit retrograde to Uranus' own rotation.

The magnetic field

The strength of Uranus' magnetic field presented a problem for the evolutionary model when Voyager 2 flew by the planet in 1986. According to the classic dynamo theory, Uranus should not have an appreciable magnetic dipole moment. That it has, did not surprise creationists, because Dr. Russell Humphreys predicted its strength from his own model of the creation of celestial magnetic fields. Humphreys published his model two years before Voyager reconnoitered Uranus.[7][6]

As mentioned, Uranus' magnetic axis is 60 degrees displaced from Uranus' axis of rotation. It is also displaced from the planet's center by about one-third of the planet's radius. The dynamo theory cannot account for such vast discrepancies. Humphreys' model says nothing about the alignment of a body's magnetic axis with respect to its rotational axis, so these findings do not compromise this model. Humphreys suggests that the displacement results from the asymmetric accretion of additional matter into Uranus' core after the planet's creation. The dynamo theory would have difficulty with this concept, because a dynamo requires a liquid core.[6]

Radiation of energy

The other three gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune) radiate more energy than they absorb from the Sun. Uranus does not. Yet Uranus and Neptune are of comparable size, mass, atmospheric composition, and length of the sidereal day. No naturalistic theory can account for this salient difference. Uranus' peculiar lack of an internal heat source was known before Voyager and confirmed by Voyager.[12][13][14]


Uranus has twenty-seven named satellites and thirteen concentric rings. The orbits of its satellites are slightly inclined to Uranus' own equator. Remarkably, many of the revolutions of Uranus' moons are retrograde. Uranus' system of satellites includes Miranda, easily the most remarkable natural satellite in all the solar system.

Table of satellites, in order from the innermost to the outermost:
Name Periuranion Apuranion Eccentricity Sidereal month Inclination Mass Sidereal day
Miranda 129450000129,450 km8.653198e-4 AU
80,436.501 mi
130150000130,150 km8.69999e-4 AU
80,871.461 mi
0.00270.0027 1.4131.413 da0.00387 a 0.07365289443424.22 °0.0737 rad
4.689 grad
6.59E+198.968061e-4 M☾6.59e+19 kg
1.102746e-5 M⊕
122083.233.912 h1.413 da
Ariel 184525000184,525 km0.00123 AU
114,658.519 mi
197515000197,515 km0.00132 AU
122,730.131 mi
0.00340.0034 2.5203792.52 da0.0069 a 0.005410520681180.31 °0.00541 rad
0.344 grad
1.35E+210.0184 M☾1.35e+21 kg
2.25904e-4 M⊕
217760.745660.489 h2.52 da
Umbriel 264968000264,968 km0.00177 AU
164,643.482 mi
267362000267,362 km0.00179 AU
166,131.045 mi
0.0050.005 4.1441774.144 da0.0113 a 0.006283185307180.36 °0.00628 rad
0.4 grad
1.17E+210.0159 M☾1.17e+21 kg
1.957835e-4 M⊕
358056.892899.46 h4.144 da
Titania 434951000434,951 km0.00291 AU
270,266.021 mi
436869000436,869 km0.00292 AU
271,457.811 mi
0.00220.0022 8.7058728.706 da0.0238 a 0.002443460952790.14 °0.00244 rad
0.156 grad
3.52E+210.0479 M☾3.52e+21 kg
5.890237e-4 M⊕
752187.3408208.941 h8.706 da
Oberon 583053000583,053 km0.0039 AU
362,292.338 mi
583987000583,987 km0.0039 AU
362,872.698 mi
0.00088.0e-4 13.46323913.463 da0.0369 a 0.001745329251990.1 °0.00175 rad
0.111 grad
3.01E+210.041 M☾3.01e+21 kg
5.036822e-4 M⊕
1163223.8496323.118 h13.463 da
Use a JavaScript-enabled browser to view this element. Browse the result list directly.DECADECENTURYOberon1787-01-11T00:00:000Date of discovery 11 January 178711 January 1787
21 Teveth 5547 He
21 Teveth 5790 AM

Discoverer William Herschel
Name origin King of the fairies in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Celestial class Major Moons of Uranus, Solar system, Moon
Titania1787-01-11T00:00:000Date of discovery 11 January 178711 January 1787
21 Teveth 5547 He
21 Teveth 5790 AM

Discoverer William Herschel
Name origin Queen of the fairies in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Celestial class Major Moons of Uranus, Solar system, Moon
Ariel1851-10-24T00:00:000Date of discovery 24 October 185124 October 1851
28 Tishrei 5612 He
28 Ethanim 5855 AM

Discoverer William Lassell
Name origin A sylph in The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope; a sprite in The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Celestial class Major Moons of Uranus, Solar system, Moon
Umbriel1851-10-24T00:00:000Date of discovery 24 October 185124 October 1851
28 Tishrei 5612 He
28 Ethanim 5855 AM

Discoverer William Lassell
Name origin Evil spirit in Alexander Pope's poem The Rape of the Lock
Celestial class Major Moons of Uranus, Solar system, Moon
Miranda1948-02-16T00:00:000Date of discovery 16 February 194816 February 1948
6 Adar 5708 He
6 Adar 5951 AM

Discoverer Gerard P. Kuiper
Name origin Female lead in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest
Celestial class Major Moons of Uranus, Solar system, Moon

Missions to Uranus

The only deep-space probe to visit Uranus thus far has been Voyager 2, which flew by Uranus on January 24, 1986. Voyager 2 discovered ten of Uranus' twenty-seven satellites, and two previously unknown rings. Voyager 2 then continued onward to Neptune before heading out of the solar system.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature: Planetary Body Names and Discoverers." US Geological Survey, Jennifer Blue, ed. March 31, 2008. Accessed April 17, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Uranus Fact Sheet, NASA, January 31, 2005. Accessed May 4, 2008.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 "HORIZONS on Uranus." Solar System Dynamics, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA, August 7, 2007. Accessed April 25, 2008.
  4. Arnett, Bill. "Uranus." <> Accessed January 22, 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Short, Nicholas M., Sr. "Uranus and Neptune, and their Satellites; the Pluto dwarfs." Remote Sensing Tutorial, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA. Accessed April 30, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Humphreys, D. R. "Beyond Neptune: Voyager II Supports Creation." Institute for Creation Research. Accessed April 30, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Humphreys, D. R. "The Creation of Planetary Magnetic Fields." Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3), December 1984. Accessed April 29, 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Calculated from observed present magnetic dipole moment and expected magnetic dipole moment at creation.
  9. R.N., Birth of Uranus and Neptune, Astronomy '28'(4):30, 2000
  10. Desch, S. J. "Mass Distribution and Planet Formation in the Solar Nebula." Arizona State University, September 21, 2007. Accessed April 29, 2008.
  11. <>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Psarris, Spike. "Entry for Uranus." Creation, 24(3):38-40, June 2002. Now hosted by Answers in Genesis. Accessed April 25, 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Psarris, Spike. Our Created Solar System Seattle Creation Conference, 2006.
  14. Henry, Jonathan. "The energy balance of Uranus: implications for special creation." Journal of Creation (formerly TJ), 15(3):85-91, December, 2001. Hosted by Answers in Genesis. Accessed April 25, 2008.
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