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Uranus

Things We Saw Today: What Princess Leia Looked Like in Rogue One, Pre-Special Effects

Through the magic of the movies, Princess Leia had a cameo in Rogue One, wherein she very much resembled a young Carrie Fisher. Norwegian actress Ingvild Delia was behind the buns—but just wait until you see the actor who played Grand Moff Tarkin before Industrial Light & Magic layered on the CGI.

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Today in Geek History: William Herschel Discovers Uranus

We love our planets. We clap our hands when we discover something new about one, we raise our heads when their moons need naming, and we lament when it turns out one of them isn't a planet after all (but we secretly still pretend it is). We also positively freak out when we discover a new one. For example: On March 13th, 1781, astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel announced the discovery of Uranus. Astronomical comedy was never the same, because no celestial object can generate more jokes than Uranus.

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Scientists on Earth Spot Aurora Around Uranus

When Voyager 2 made its flyby of the strangely tilted planet Uranus, scientists got their first glimpse of what an aurora looked like on the icy blue planet. However, such lights have never been observed on Uranus from Earth, until last year when a team of scientists used careful planning and the Hubble Telescope to watch the lights on the distant planet.

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Mysterious Eruption on Uranus Calls Astronomers to Action

A few days ago, Dr. Heidi B Hammel announced on her Facebook page that a strange plume had been spotted in the lower hemisphere of the ice giant Uranus. Along with her announcement was a call for independent verification from amateur astronomers, with the goal of making the anomaly a "target of opportunity" for the Hubble space telescope. The strange bright spot has been observed by the Gemini Telescope North in Hawaii, and is pictured to the left. The plume of light is apparently ten times brighter than the surrounding area, but still might be difficult for astronomers to spot without special equipment. The current thinking is that the glowing dots are an eruption of methane ice in the high atmosphere, only visible because it is above the dense cloud cover on the planet.

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New Study Says Several Knocks Might Have Tilted Uranus' Axis

Most folks don't generally give the humble planet Uranus much thought, except to make an off color homonym joke. However, Alessandro Morbidelli and his team at the Observatoire de la Cote d’Azur in France, think that they can overturn years of scientific speculation about the planet with a new theory of what caused the distant planet's bizarre spin. Uranus, unlike most planets in the solar system, has an axis tilted at 98º from the orbital plane from the sun. Nearly all planets are tilted to some degree -- the Earth's axis is 23º off, which gives us seasons -- but none quite as much as Uranus. To explain this bizarre situation, scientists had long assumed that Uranus was struck by a body more massive than the Earth that knocked the planet on its side. However, there have always been some problems with this theory.

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