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Seasons of Uranus, a sideways world

4 Nov 2021, 10:30 UTC
Seasons of Uranus, a sideways world
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This image of Uranus was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in November 2018. It shows widespread stormy cloud cover over the planet’s north pole. The seasons of Uranus are strange, when contrasted with Earth’s seasons. Image via NASA/ ESA/ A. Simon et al.
Strange seasons of Uranus
Uranus has bizarre seasons. That’s our earthly perspective, at least. As we explore exoplanets and their distant solar systems – or think about planetary moons, or asteroids – who knows what range of differences we’ll find? But we do know this. Uranus has bizarre seasons, in contrast to Earth and the other major planets in this solar system. It’s because Uranus’ spin axis is extremely tilted with respect to its orbit around the sun. Compared to the other planets – which spin elegantly nearly upright as they orbit our local star – Uranus almost seems as if it’s rolling around the sun, like a rolling ball.
Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from perpendicular with respect to the plane of our orbit around the sun. Uranus’s axis is tilted at 98 degrees! So Uranus is tilted nearly sideways to the plane of the solar system, the single flat sheet of space ...

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