Not only is the planet Uranus the victim of many jokes related to its name, but it is also picked on by scientists. Thanks to its extremely far distance of 2.9 billion kilometers from the Sun, the seventh planet hardly ever gets any attention. While other planets in our galaxy like Saturn or Jupiter have been visited by many spacecraft, Uranus has only ever been briefly explored by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1986, according to reports from NASA scientist Amy Simon. Now, many scientists, including Simon, are advocating for the probe to be sent to the lonely planet so that we can learn more about what's going on on that side of our solar system...
"It's one of the strangest planets in the Solar System, and yet we haven't been back there," Dr. Simon explained. "So the time is right for us now to really go explore the whole system. This really is huge, unexplored territory." But what exactly about this planet makes scientists so intrigued? Firstly, it was the only one of the 8 planets to ever actually be "discovered" by scientists back in 1781 because all the other planets had already been familiarized with since ancient times.
If it was up to astronomer William Herschel to name the planet when it was first located, he would have called it Georgian Sidus, or George's Star, after his patron King George III. But eventually, they chose the name of the Greek god of the sky, Ouranos, father of Saturn and grandfather of Jupiter. "It would have been a lot easier if Herschel had his way, and it was called George," joked planetary scientist at the University of Southern Queensland, Jonti Horner, referring to the name it has now and how it is often the butt of many jokes.
Nevertheless, scientists do wish to explore the planet more for scientific reasons because, contrary to the other planets, Uranus is tipped on its side at an angle of 97.77 degrees. "What that means is that it rolls along, its orbit rather than spinning," Professor Horner revealed. "It's a really very weird, very different place." Currently, there are no plans for any probes to visit Uranus because it takes 84 years for it to go around the Sun, meaning it can be hard to get to. "It's really the mission for the next generation of scientists because it is on such a long timescale," Dr. Simon shared. Until then, stay tuned.