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About Uranus Date Published: by Clarke Fountain
Bio: Clarke Fountain

Clarke Fountain has been studying astrology with varying levels of intensity since the 1960s, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and gave his first professional reading in 1977 in San Francisco. After years of doing every kind of job under the sun, he earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Naropa Institute (as it was then called) in 1989 and at that time became involved with aspects of publishing. Astrology has been one of the few consistent threads in his otherwise extremely varied life, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to serve the astrological community as the Editor for "Astro Talk Online Astrological Magazine."

In Astronomy

When the physical characteristics of any of the planets in the solar system are examined even superficially, it soon becomes clear that they are all unique in some way. Such study makes it nearly impossible to confuse tiny sun-baked Mercury, for instance, for any other heavenly body.

However, some planets are strange in ways that are difficult to remember. Others, like Uranus, have oddities that set them firmly in one’s memory. Less than half the diameter of Saturn and a little over one-third the diameter of Jupiter, Uranus has many characteristics that make it resemble these “gas giants.” Indeed, its diameter and mass closely resemble those of its neighbor Neptune. But that oddity sticks in one’s mind. Unlike all the other planets, Uranus “spins on its side.” Some people suspect that this anomaly is the result of a massive collision or near-collision with some heavenly body.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly past the planet: thanks to that, we learned of eleven additional moons. Recent developments in space-based astronomy have turned up quite a few more. Even the many plays of Shakespeare (and poems of Alexander Pope) were hard-pressed to provide names for all the satellites circling this planet, which has been found to have approximately 21 at this date. Only five of them were large enough to have been known prior to the Voyager flyby.

Uranus has rings, like Saturn and Jupiter, and has a hydrogen and helium atmosphere. Unlike those two planets, however, it is believed to be composed mostly of “rocks and water.” Vast amounts of water comprise the bulk of Uranus’ mass, and that water is in liquid form at something like 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 6,650 degrees Celsius, at pressures approaching 5 million times the sea-level atmospheric pressure of the earth. Unlike Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus doesn’t radiate more heat than it takes in from the Sun.

It is interesting to consider that the watery composition of Uranus was likely unknown at the time when it was being given rulership of the sign Aquarius (“the water-bearer”) by modern astrologers.

It takes 84.011 years for Uranus to circle the Sun, but only 17.25 hours for it to turn on its axis. Thus, one year on Uranus consists of something like 42,657 Uranian days, if I did my math right, or 30,588.74 earth days, as reported by the astronomers (whose math I trust much better than my own). Uranus has a magnetic field about as strong as that of the earth, and a relatively circular orbit. However, night and day are another oddity, and for many years during Uranus’ orbit, one pole never sees sunlight while the other side is never truly dark. After a transition period, the situation is reversed.

Astrological Symbolism

Since Uranus is a modern planet, officially discovered by William Herschel on March 13, 1781, its uses are still matters of occasional controversy in Western astrology, and it is used only provisionally (if at all) in Vedic astrology. After its discovery, research showed that Uranus had been sighted years earlier. For instance, in 1690, astronomer John Flamsteed labeled it as a star.

Even its name remained a matter of controversy for a considerable period of time. Herschel wanted to name it “Georgium Sidus” (the Georgian Planet) to honor his patron George III of England. Post-Revolutionary Americans referred to it as “Herschel.” It was only after the name proposed by the astronomer Bode came into general use that it was normally referred to as Uranus. In some quarters it is still referred to as “Herschel.” The accepted pronunciation of Uranus is “YOOR a nus,” which neatly avoids some of the rather untidy associations other ways of saying the name inspire.

All of this is fitting, in that many consider the planet to be a harbinger of intellectual revolutions, eccentricity, genius, electricity, science, and so on. Its effects in an individual chart are often drastic and difficult, as are the effects of the other “transpersonal” (and trans-Saturnian) planets. Sudden change is one of the characteristics of a Uranian contact, so it is associated with earthquakes and accidents of many kinds. Many of the insights spurred by Uranus, and the rebellions associated with it, fall outside the social norms. Some people (who go too far, I think) have even labeled it “the queer planet,” and attempt use it as THE definitive indicator of alternative sexual orientations and preferences. It is the planet of invention and innovation according to some, and the computer revolution is a quintessential expression of its energies, which are impersonal and far-reaching.

As for rulerships, Uranus is considered by many to rule the sign Aquarius (replacing Saturn in that role), and is considered to be the “higher octave” of the planet Mercury. Whatever else may be said about the energies it imparts, they can be said to be highly mental. Some people believe that Uranus contacts confer psychic gifts; others vehemently respond that it simply speeds up and enhances the normal thought processes so that the results seem uncanny, but nothing “psychic” has taken place. Here again Uranus is in its natural element of controversy and the unusual, “spinning on its side” for lo, these many years.

The association of Uranus with the Saturn-ruled sign Aquarius is interesting for several reasons, chief among them is that Uranus is described in ways that make it seem more allied with chaos and sudden change, whereas Saturn’s effects are generally perceived as slower and more orderly expressions of the laws of cause and effect. Do you like your disasters to take place slowly (Saturn) or quickly (Uranus)? The disparity in the symbolism of these two planets has led some to feel that it is either simply the co-ruler of the sign associated with it, or it is still associated in some ways with the “old” sign ruler. Similar thinking applies to the other outer planets and their assignment to sign rulerships.

In Mythology

In the beginning, it seems, there was only the “sky god” (Uranus) and the “earth goddess” (Gaea), who were “married.” From their union sprang the Titans and a whole series of monstrosities (Cyclopes and 100-handed giants). Cronus (see Saturn) led the Titans in a revolt against Uranus and set himself up as king of heaven. In addition, he castrated his father. . The severed genitals fell into the sea, and re-emerged as the goddess Aphrodite. The blood from that act, when it fell to earth, created the Furies (Erinyes), beings whose special task is to avenge the crimes of perjury and father-killing. The Furies play an important part in the myths of Oedipus and others. If Uranus was ever an object of worship is not clear; he was not worshiped in historical times.

Uranus Astronomical Data

 

Distance from Sun1,784,000,000 miles
Diameter31,763 miles
Radius @ 1 bar level, in kmEquatorial: 25,559 Polar: 24,973
Mass (Earth = 1)14.53 (or 86.832 x 1024 kg)
Mean Density (water = 1)1.29
Angle/inclination of Orbit0.774
Sidereal Orbit (days)30,685.4 (or 84.011 years)
Tropical Orbit (days)30,588.74 (or 83.759 years)
Length of day (hours)17.24
Obliquity to Orbit (“tilt”)97.77 (compare this with earth’s 23.45 degrees)
Number of RingsApproximately 11, ranging in width from 1 km to 500 km (as of year 2000, c.e.)
Number of Moons21, with radii ranging from 13 km to 761 km (as of year 2000, c.e.)

 

 

Moons of Uranus
(in approx. discovery date order)

NameDate DiscoveredDiscovered byDistance (000 km)Radius (km)
Titania1787Herschel436789
Oberon1787Herschel583761
Ariel1851Lassell191579
Umbriel1851Lassell266585
Miranda1948Kuiper130236
Puck1985Voyager 28677
Cordelia1986Voyager 25013
Ophelia1986Voyager 25416
Bianca1986Voyager 25922
Cressida1986Voyager 26233
Desdemona1986Voyager 26329
Juliet1986Voyager 26442
Portia1986Voyager 26655
Rosalind1986Voyager 27027
Belinda1986Voyager 27534
Sycorax1997Nicholson1221380
Caliban1999Gladman716940
Sycorax1999Gladman794815
Prospero1999Holman1656820
Setebos1999Kavelaars1768120
1986U101999Karkoschka7640

 

 

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