Scientists plan Uranus probe
Proposed by British scientists as a joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency, the mission would offer the first close-up view of Uranus in 25 years.
British space scientists are leading plans to send a probe to explore giant ice planet Uranus. They have put forward a detailed proposal to the European Space Agency to launch a joint mission with NASA to the distant world, 1.8 billion miles from the sun.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It would give scientists their first close-up views of Uranus since NASA’s Voyager 2 flew past and captured fleeting pictures 25 years ago.
The £400million mission is designed to go in orbit to study the rings around Uranus and answer questions such as why it gives off so little heat.
Uranus – first spotted by Sir William Herschel from Bath, England, in 1781 – also has the most powerful wind observed in the solar system, blowing at more than 500mph.
The planet is unusual because it is tilted right over on its side. Astronomers believe this was caused when Uranus was given a mighty whack by another world in a cosmic collision.
He told Skymania in an exclusive interview: “We’ve only really scratched the surface of Uranus. It is very difficult to observe from Earth because any detail is smeared out.
“Since Voyager flew by we know the rings and atmosphere have changed. We need close-up measurements. Uranus is ripe for learning a lot from. It is so different among the planets.
“When you go to Uranus and Neptune you find their composition is dominated a lot more by rock and ice. There is a lot more water in their atmospheres, a lot more methane.”