Who can come up with a name for a planet which would be pronounced by toddlers in a weird way? Uranus may have a frowned upon name but it is more than that. Well I just hope those toddlers do not use the planet name as slang. Nevermind, Uranus is the 7th planet in our solar system and the coldest of all. It is also the 3rd largest after Jupiter and Saturn all being massive gas giant. But what make Uranus different from others? And no, it is not just its name. The planet can roll!
So what with a planet rolling like a barrel? It is fascinating because every other planet in the solar system spins on their axis. I mean Earth is also tilted 23.5 degrees and our sister planet Venus is totally knocked over upside down. Uranus axis on the other hand is highly tilted, almost flat to the orbit of its revolution around the sun. The tilt of Uranus works out so that one pole or the other is usually pointed towards the Sun. This means that a day at the north pole of Uranus lasts half of a Uranian year – 84 Earth years!. Scientists have being studying this weird nature of Uranus because this could provide some glimpse of the past when solar system was forming. To explain this rolling feature of Uranus, they have come up with theories. In fact there are two different theories and what exactly might have happen is still unknown.
According to first theory, an object about the same size as Earth, hit Uranus and knocked it over at some point in its distant history. It causes the planet to roll around the Sun in its orbit like a barrel, and its moons, instead of going from left to right around the planet in their orbits, to go over the top of it and under. This could in fact be a real possibility because in early days of our solar system too many debris floating and crashing to each other in space. It was a total hell and we should be happy that our earth escaped although at one point nearly!.
But some scientists have a different idea. There must be a non violent way to do a barrel dance, isn’t it? Uranus may have once had a very large moon, approximately one percent of the gas giant’s mass. Through the gravitational “tugging” by the large moon’s mass, over the course of 2 million years Uranus may have wobbled to such an extent that it was pulled onto its side. However, such a large moon may not be plausible as current satellite formation models don’t allow moons of this size. A smaller satellite of only 0.1 percent the mass of Uranus may be sufficient to pull the planet on its side over a longer period. But what happened to this moon? It is not uncommon that planets disrupt other planet’s moons, so the gravitational influences of the other massive gas giants may be a factor. In other words some planet swallowed the moon
Whatever may be the cause, Uranus is a interesting planet and till all the mysteries about the planet is solved, it definitely will keep itching our bums!