Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Uranus

The author’s artistic impression of the planet Uranus

 

Uranus, at about 3 billion km, is the seventh planet from the sun and is the coldest planet in the solar system with a minimum temperature of -224°C. It is thought to be made of mainly icy water and methane with some rock. It was discovered in 1977 that Uranus has a ring system and so far 27 natural satellites have been identified.

 

Its axis of rotation is tilted at 97°46’8” to its plane of orbit of the sun and the rotation of its interior has been calculated at 17 hours 14 minutes. The orbit of Uranus around the sun lasts 84 Earth years and wind speeds can reach 900kmph (560mph).

Its axis of rotation is tilted at 97°46’8” to its plane of orbit of the sun and the rotation of its interior has been calculated at 17 hours 14 minutes. The orbit of Uranus around the sun lasts 84 Earth years and wind speeds can reach 900kmph (560mph).

 

Incidentally, the image of Uranus is not accurate. The atmosphere goes around the planet so fast that it is featureless and smooth so Uranus would look like a giant billard ball. I used artistic licence with the lines to emphasise the tilt of the planet and the cloud effect to make the whole thing look more ‘realistic’.

A replica of the type of 6-inch diameter 7-foot long telescope that Herschel used when he discovered Uranus

The sky at night

Nowadays it is more difficult to see as much in the night sky from Slough as it was in the time of the Herschels. The reason is light pollution from streetlamps that bounces around the atmosphere and filters out lots of detail. In the countryside away from lights one of the most spectacular things to see is our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

 

It is still possible to see many things if you know what to look for. I myself observed the planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn when they came into line in April 2002. I didn’t need binoculars or a telescope; the planets were strung out in a straight line across the sky pointing to where the sun had set some half an hour before.

When Jupiter is closest in its orbit to the Earth it is the third brightest object in the night sky after the Sun and the Moon. It can be possible with a relatively small telescope or even binoculars of 10x40 or 12x50 to just make out the four major Galileo satellites of Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They appear as faint specks close to and in line with the planet.

 

In 2013, I bought myself a new compact digital camera, a Canon SX50, which has a 50x zoom lens. At the time it was probably the best compact camera on the market. In the October and November 2013, I mounted the camera on a tripod in my back garden and pointed it at the moon. After fiddling around with the exposure settings, the results were quite impressive.

An almost perfect full Moon

This waning gibbous, which follows the full Moon, shows pleasing shadows on some of the Moon’s craters

My name is Gary Flint. To make comments on the contents of this website please click below:

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Postcards from Slough gratefully uses images from Grace's Guide.

www.gracesguide.co.uk

 

 

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