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The planet Uranus has a couple of notable things about it:

1. It's got an axis which (unlike the Earth) is way off, tilted at an extraordinary angle.

2. The name of the planet Uranus is typically the subject of infantile humour.

The second point can be disposed of without much trouble, as it's not a problem if it's stressed with something approximating to a Scottish accent.

Meanwhile, on the curious matter of the axis of tilt, it is a subject of some interest and speculation. When you see globes of the Earth, they are often fitted on a neat stand which is tilted at the jaunty angle of 23 degrees. This isn't just to make them look good; it's the angle at which the planet Earth is actually tilted in space. 23 degrees is a good angle of tilt, as it gives sensible night and day just about everywhere on the planet, and in most places seasonal changes. The seasons are largely the result of the tilt. Now compare that with Uranus, where the angle of tilt of the axis is 97.77 degrees, something has most likely clouted the planet quite early on in its history, and so it rotates sort-of end-on! If that happened on Earth it would be disastrous! More about this at the page of The Poles are Going to Flip?!

However, to knock off a planet like that would require something considerably more drastic than the event that wiped out the dinosaurs. The Uranus question is typically theorised as "it was probably hit by an object at least as big as the Earth, a few thousand million years ago". There are other theories on how it ended up like that.

and here's another way it doesn't rotateThe planet Uranus is much further away from the Sun than the Earth is, so it has a much longer year. It's about 84 years. However, applying end-on axis principles to the Earth and what it would do to the climate, the following is the scenario:

For almost half the year, the sun would never rise, and for almost the other half of the year, it would never set. It's a bit like in Antarctica where the seasons are so different, except that if this were applied to the whole of the planet, it would produce desertifying hot days that lasted almost half a year, and similar length Antarctic nights. Having the polar regions tropically hot for half the year would have effects which would make all that "carbon footprint" stuff pale into insignificance.

Hyper-seasonal climates would be most apparent in the previously temperate zones, whereas at the equator there would be reasonably familiar daily night/day cycles, at least for the months near the equinoxes. The rest of the time, seasonality would be markedly different to that at the equator as currently observed.

The good news is that such drastic changes are not likely to befall the Earth. Such things haven't happened in the last four thousand million years and they're not likely to happen soon either.

Meanwhile the planet Uranus continues to rotate in that odd way, tilted over so far that its North pole is just South of where its equator might have been. Whatever happened to the planet to cause that, happened a very long time ago, and you can see that by the fact that its dozens of moons orbit around in the same sort of way the planet itself does.

Further helpful links for looking up Uranus are as follows...Uranus








Other Uranian things: The diverse moons of Uranus include: Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, Miranda, and Puck, plus at least a couple of dozen smaller moons which go around in more or less chaotic ways. Despite being a planet that's much bigger than the Earth, the planet Uranus has a slightly lower gravity at where the surface would be. It's made of liquid gas and ice in various proportions. There are interesting comparisons with Saturn

It's sometimes said that the planet Uranus has similarities to Neptune , but the similarities are over-stated.

Still having trouble with the name "Uranus"? Well call it the planet George, then! If anyone asks why such eccentricity in teaching, you can say that the discoverer of the planet was William Herschel (in 1781), and he named it George! (It's true, Herschel intended to name the planet after King George III, but it didn't catch on at the time!).

Picture of the planet Uranus by NASA acquired via the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Uranusandrings.jpg