astronomy · science · Science oddity · Solar system

Uranus: butt of solar system jokes, again

The Rodney Dangerfield of planets is back in the news.

Uranus is mooned yet again and this time, surprise, surprise it’s the scientific community that after some astronomical sniffing around concluded … wait for it …. Uranus stinks.

Patrick Irwin, a planetary physics professor at Oxford University, led a team of researchers who poked their noses into what makes up the seventh planet’s atmosphere. Their conclusion?  An Earthling walking on the planet’s surface would “smell a horrible smell of rotten eggs.”

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since it’s been long known that Uranus has a tendency to be, how to put it politely, gaseous?

Woe for a giant planet named after the primal Greek God Uranus. The name “Ouranos” meant the Heavens or the Sky. According to ancient Greek mythology, Uranus got it on with the primal Goddess Gaia, otherwise known as Mother Earth. After the Earth moved, so to speak, the primal gods begat the Titans. The Titans then begat the Greek Gods, those marvelous Mount Olympus dwelling immortals whose deeds and misdeeds inspired  early art and culture in the Western World.

The Olympians clearly have a better PR team than old Uranus. No one makes burping or farting jokes about Zeus.

Ancients who revered Uranus knew only two great things existed, the Heavens and the Earth. They figured these immeasurable halves of their universe must be gods, in fact, primal gods. No doubt the very idea that Uranus would become the punchline for a never-ending list of jokes might have sent our forebears quaking face-to-the-ground as they set a hind quarter on fire as a burnt offering. [Please no blue angel jokes.]

I’m not one to raise a stink about such cracks, but this latest study smacked defenders of  the seventh planet’s sanctity on their blind-side, a below the belt assault on a celestial body rather than true scientific investigation to get to the bottom.

Uranus was last publicly displayed when Voyageur 2 made its much anticipated flyby in January, 1986.  The spacecraft snapped a series of photos from 81,500-kilometers away,  confirming at long last that indeed, there is a ring around Uranus.



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