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The Last Planets

  • The Last Planets

    Next to Jupiter are Saturn, Uranus and finally Neptune. Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system. Like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus are made up of gases. All three planets have rings, but it is Saturn’s rings that are the most spectacular. Quick Q’s: 1. How big are Saturn’s rings? Saturn’s rings can be up to 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) thick and stretch for over 280,000 kilometres (175,000 miles). 2. When were Saturn’s rings discovered? Saturn’s rings were first observed by Galileo through a telescope in 1610. 3. Who discovered Uranus? Uranus was the first planet to be seen through a telescope. It was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel. Q Why do Saturn’s rings shine? A Saturn’s rings consist of dust particles and pieces of ice that can be quite large. The ice pieces reflect light, causing the rings to shine. Q What gives Uranus and Neptune their blue colour? A Both planets contain methane. Sunlight is reflected by clouds under the methane layer. Only the blue portion of the reflected light passes through the methane layer, so they appear to be blue. 18 Q Why do seasons on Uranus last for over 20 years? A Uranus has a very peculiar orbit, unique in the solar system. The planet is tilted in such a way that its poles face the Sun directly, so that Uranus spins from top to bottom. It acts like a cylinder that is rotating on its ends instead of rotating on its sides. Scientists believe that another planet-like object might have crashed into Uranus, knocking it over on to its side. The long seasons are caused by the planet’s unusual orbit. Q Are there winds on Neptune? A Neptune is the windiest planet in our solar system. Winds on this planet can reach speeds of about 2,000 kilometres per hour (1,200 miles per hour). That is more than ten times the speed of the strongest hurricane on Earth. Saturn’s rings Saturn has seven large rings, each made up of thousands of smaller rings. These are among the brightest objects you can see through a telescope. Cloudy over Neptune The clouds over Neptune are always being blown about by the strong winds on the planet.