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Why Is Uranus the Only Planet Without Interesting Features on It? (forbes.com)
95 points by mweibel 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

My 9th grade science teacher, Mr. Chew, told me that I would outgrow my juvenile sense of humor. I turn 40 in April. Mr. Chew, you were incorrect!

It doesn't get much better trying to be serious about it

> οὐρᾰνός • (ouranós)

> 1. the vaulted sky 2. the region above this vault, the home of the gods 3. (philosophy) the universe 4. anything shaped like the sky: vaulted ceiling, tent

looks pretty good

> Etymology

> Probably from an older ϝορσανός (worsanós), which may be related to οὑρέω (houréō, “to urinate”), from Proto-Indo-European h₁worseye-, from h₁wers- (“rain”) (compare Sanskrit वर्षति (varṣati, “it rains”).

OK, never mind.

> A folk etymology advanced by Aristotle interpreted it as ὅρος (hóros, “limit”) and ἄνω (ánō, “up”).

Oh wait a second.

German ur-, English or- means roughly "original", from a sense "up", found e.g. in Urteil "sentence, decision, verdict", cognate to ordeal (teil and deal from a sense part, to split), but more significantly Urahne" "ancestor" (see above ἄνω "above"), Ursuppe* "primordial soup".

Latin anus, cognate Ancient Greek ἀννίς (annís) means “grandmother”, old high german ano "grandfather", so

Wer- as in werewolf means "man", too.

Ouranus (wonder why Greek omega is written like a w) is father of the first titans. talk about ancestors. The name is potentially so old that it's constituents have been re-analized multiple times.

but yeah, really funny.

> re-analized

I see what you did there.

I tried to find something relevant to link but Language Log doesn't seem to have discussed this particular planet.

Mr. Chew, told me that I would outgrow my juvenile sense of humor.

Aliens. You have interesting features on the other planets. Saturn has a humongous freaking hexagon on it, for crying out loud! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn%27s_hexagon They know we're inching our way towards spaceflight, so they've acted to delay our arrival by making Uranus as bland as possible.

(But seriously, it's never aliens. https://www.pbs.org/video/oumuamua-is-not-aliens-zjpppc/ )


"A massive object devastated Uranus a long time ago and it never fully recovered"

In all seriousness, crude graffiti and dick jokes have been around as long as we've had civilization and the written word: https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-graffiti-of-pompeii-was-downrigh...

I have to stop reading the comments before the article ... it took 3 sec .. but now I can't finish it ;)

Anything to get clicks right?

Uranus IS interesting as it’s the only planet which is turned on its side relative to the spin and orbits of its sibling planets.

Just because it doesn’t have swirling clouds due to the extreme cold doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.

The article doesn't say it isn't interesting (nor does the title), and actually says it has nice swirling clouds now. (The comments here really are something else...)

Came for the puerile, stayed for the pedantry.

What of the puerile pedantry and the pedantic puerility?

HN users feel no requirement to read an article before commenting on it.

>2 sentences? i don't even bother finishing the entire comment either.

That’s not limited to HN

The title certainly implies it doesn't have interesting features.

"Features on it", as in "visible things", not "characteristics of it".

HN doesn't like clickbait titles.

was unsure whether I should change the title to something less clickbaity or not. It's the article's original title after all..

Indeed, when one read the Wikipedia page on Uranus, lots of things are unknown. Also, apparently the ring system is on the equatorial plane... How is it even possible?

Because the planet's axis is tilted 97 degrees, the equator runs roughly vertically comparered to the plane of the solar system, just like the rings. Basically it's like a "normal" planet with "normal" rings and rotation but the whole thing turned on its side, rotation, equator, rings, and all.

The equatorial plane is based on the rotation of the planet, not the relationship to the sun.

But the planet was turned on its side by a collision, right? How would the collision have also altered the rotation of whatever moon wandered past to Roche limit to later became the ring?

Perhaps the ring is the remains of the impactor. It struck Uranus (when the planet was rotating 'normally') on a trajectory aligned with Uranus's current, post impact, equatorial plane. Hence, the ring and the equatorial plane are similarly aligned.

The fact that it is the only one that is relatively featureless makes it incredibly interesting. It's anything but boring.

> relatively featureless makes it incredibly interesting

OT but this reminded me of the "Interesting number paradox" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interesting_number_paradox

That's not a paradox, it's not the number that's interesting, but a sentence about it.

It rains diamonds on it. That doesn't sound boring. :)

If you're tired of the butt jokes or if this planet is just too mainstream for you, might I recommend another mysterious, ringed celestial body in the same general region i.e. a bajillion kilometers from nowhere?

Why not Chariklo! You almost never hear about this baby. I'd love to see a mission fly close enough to properly photograph it in my lifetime, but it's super rare to send something out that far and it would probably have to pass up on much more important science objectives in order to swing by such a tiny backwater dwarf planet. Supposedly the rings have been confirmed by stellar occultation, which is cool because it's super small for such clear rings.


I want to stand on the surface and look up for a while. See also Chiron and Haumea.

Fund my team and we'll go get pictures of it.

Venus is also bland in visible light. However, in ultraviolet light, Venus has interesting cloud patterns. I wonder what spectrum range Uranus shows the most? The article suggests infrared.

As far as the funny name, scientists are planning on renaming Uranus to avoid all the embarrassment. The new name will be "Urectum". (Swiped from an animated Sitcom.)

Today Wikipedia has 82 articles with Uranus in the title. Something is interesting.


The short answer is: "because clickbait titles is part of the industry, it's not really that boring."

The longer answer it is sometimes too cold to make the same cool cloud patterns in the visual spectrum Jupiter and Saturn have.

That's not what the article says. It says that, thanks to its unusual axis of rotation (it's lying on its side, with the axis more or less parallel with the ecliptic, unlike every other planet), it spends decades in solstice (sun mostly shining on a polar region) and decades in equinox (sun mostly shining on the equator). During periods of equinox, the day/night cycle rapidly rotates the surface of the planet into and out of the sun's light which causes all kinds of interesting weather phenomena.

During solstice, where the sun just steadily warms one pole, not much happens.

The article concludes by saying that it's boring, but only some of the time.

The article literally proposes and refutes that hypothesis. No, the longer answer is that:

1: The Voyager shots featuring a featureless orb were shot near the Uranian solstice, so each hemisphere was getting nearly constant illumination (Uranus is tilted on its side). If you look at it now nearer the equinox (where it has a day/night cycle) you see storms and clouds. And...

2: The cloud patterns are always there anyway, they are just hidden by a methane fog that blocks visible light during the solstice. The heating/cooling cycles of the midyear break up this haze and it looks more transparent.

The longer answer it is too cold to make the same cool cloud patterns in the visual spectrum Jupiter and Saturn have.

That's not what the articles says at all.

The more interesting question is ”Why does Neptune have interesting visible-light features even though it’s even farther from the sun than Uranus?”

Someone please make a crowdsourced browser extension for news articles that answer clickbait titles, similar to:


I got the impression that it was because of the methane cloud blocking things below in combination with the cold (as cold=less energy=less movement/"weather").

Does that make it interesting?

I would have thought interesting weather depends on Coriolis which a sideways planet can't have.

Of course it can. Any rotating frame has Coriolis forces.

TL;DR: Because, methane makes it look that way in visible light.

All the ads crashed my browser. How can you even read this?

Ethan Siegal's articles are usually re-published on Medium a few days later:


Load the page, but click stop when you see the content has loaded (ads take more time to load). Then use the reading mode in Firefox.


"Why is ..." "no"?

Betteridge's law of headlines!

This is off topic but it was so distracting I had to ask: does anyone else trying to read this on mobile have this page serving up the exact same advertisement on this page for each break in the article? I refreshed and it fixed things for the most part. Two areas still have duplicated ads.

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