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Uranus is full of surprises, other than the embarrassment when mispronouncing its name. This gas giant is the third-largest planet in the solar system, yet at a distance of 1.8 billion miles it looks rather small when viewed from Earth. It is the first planet discovered in modern times - by William Herschel in 1781. It had actually been seen many times before but ignored as simply another star.

Another oddity is that whilst most planets spin around an axis perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, Uranus' axis is almost parallel to it - possibly the result of a catastrophic collision with another body in the past. Now, there is an ongoing battle over which of Uranus' poles is its north pole! Uranus also features faint rings consisting of dark ice particles.

Uranus - October 2006 - (c) Solar Worlds

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