Sciency Words: Uranus

Today’s post is part of a special series that first appeared on Planet Pailly. Every week, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s sciency word is:


As we continue our voyage through the Solar System, we now reach a planet that has become the butt of far too many childish jokes.

oc01-presenting-uranus (1)

I’ve sort of been dreading this. Uranus is the first planet discovered in modern times. It’s only been visited by a spacecraft once. It’s colder than it should be, the atmosphere is oddly featureless (at least in visible light), and some of its moons are pretty strange. Also, Uranus is spinning sideways for some reason.

But it’s hard to take any of that seriously because… well… you know why.

In fact, I rarely if ever hear about new discoveries on or concerning Uranus. Part of the reason is that Uranus is so far away and so difficult to observe; however, Neptune is even farther, and I do occasionally hear about new discoveries there.

I sometimes wonder if astronomers are deliberately avoiding this area of research. I mean, nobody wants to be the guy who probes Uranus for a living.

So how did the seventh planet from the Sun get this embarrassing name? The story, as it turns out, is really interesting.

So what do you think of Uranus’s name? Would you have preferred Herschel or Georgium Sidus or some other possibility?

Written by James Pailly.

To read all the articles in the ‘Sciency Words‘ series, visit the Planet Pailly blog.

  • John H Reiher Jr

    So, have there been any stories set at Uranus involving a proctologist?

    • Lol. I’m not sure that joke is strong enough to support the weight of an entire story

  • Leonardo Faria

    “I sometimes wonder if astronomers are deliberately avoiding this area
    of research. I mean, nobody wants to be the guy who probes Uranus for a

    Well, hardly so. Not all astronomers are native English speakers and only in English language it sounds that ridiculous and with those anatomical suggestions.

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    I never understood the why of all these childish and stupid jokes about Uranus. :/

    • Kirov

      As a native English speaker, I don’t get it either. Ya, it might sound like “your anus,” but it’s not. I don’t see why it’s so hard for people to not associate two things that have no relation. I mean, nobody giggles at the word assassin despite that it has the word ass in it twice. But I would be very much in favor of using the original Greek pronunciation. Not because I care about the pronunciation, but I would consider it to be the objectively correct pronunciation since it’s the original.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        I agree 100%. Using the original Greek pronunciation would make far more sense than using the (simply stupid) English pronunciation (no offense intended to the native English speakers).

      • Marty Mcfly

        Hahaha, you said assassin!

  • I can’t ..I simply can’t….not to…

    What has Star Trek and toilet paper in common?

    Both circle around Ur-anus and look for Cling-Ons …