There was a news item on Slashdot about two new moons “about the size of San Francisco” being discovered around Uranus. This prompted a cranky posting from someone saying:

“Seriously though, is it not possible to read an article about Uranus without seeing all those “uranus *lol* *giggle* *pffft!*” posts?”

Well, I just had to reply…

A scholarly look at Uranus

Yes, there’s nothing funny about Uranus. Let’s forget the childish humor and take a serious, scholarly look at Uranus. To many people it’s just a giant cloud of gas where the sun doesn’t shine, but those of us who are enthusiastic about Uranus know that it has many secrets.

Surprising as it may seem, we don’t have all that many photographs of Uranus. Yes, the Pioneers sent back pictures of Uranus, lots of them. But there are very few images that are high enough resolution and quality to show the faint rings around Uranus. Perhaps the excitement around these new moons will give us the excuse we need to take another long, hard look at Uranus.

Even if you have no idea how to find Uranus, you can still appreciate its unusual configuration. Scientists still don’t understand why Uranus is tilted sideways. Also, while we know what’s near the surface, we still aren’t sure of the exact chemical mixture deep inside Uranus. Are the moons stable, or are they spiraling into Uranus?

With so much to learn, we must hope that NASA will probe the depths of Uranus soon. Yes, there are many technical issues that will need to be resolved, and problems to be faced—but we put men on the moon, and I’m sure that given sufficient motivation, NASA’s engineers can lick Uranus too.

Oh, and yes, the size comparisons are silly, but can you think of a more sensible unit of size than San Francisco for an object in the vicinity of Uranus?

OK, I think I’m done now.