NASA will return to Uranus in 2030 - here's what they're looking for

By Ryan Latto
Monday, 9th March 2020, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 9th March 2020, 3:48 pm

Our solar system comprises of eight planets, and earth is the third closest planet to the sun. We have gathered extensive knowledge of our rocky and gaseous neighbours, with one exception - the frozen wasteland of Uranus.

Named after the Greek sky deity, Uranus is the coldest planet in our solar system, next to its sister Neptune. The two are considered 'Ice Giants'.

NASA will travel when the planets align

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NASA approached Uranus back in 1986, when its Voyager-2 spacecraft made a brief journey past. But, in 2030, a rare planetary alignment will cut down the travel time to both Uranus and Neptune, and NASA has seized on the opportunity to travel back there again.

The sun's light takes about eight minutes to reach earth, and over two hours to reach the ice giant. A probe launched in 2030 will take about 13 to 14 years to arrive on Uranus. In order to make their way to the planet, scientists use the gravitational pulls of planets to slingshot a probe into space.

NASA is going to launch its James Webb Telescope into space next year, hoping that it will be able to survey Neptune and Uranus.

Likely to cost billions

The expedition is likely to cost billions of dollars, but scientists are keen to explore the uncharted territory of both Neptune and Uranus.

NASA said in a statement, “Webb will give insight into the powerful seasonal forces driving the formation of its clouds and weather, and how this is changing with time.

“It will help determine how energy flows and is transported through the Uranian atmosphere. Scientists want to watch Uranus throughout Webb’s life, to build up a timeline of how the atmosphere responds to the extreme seasons.

“That will help them understand why this planet's atmosphere seems to go through periods of intense activity punctuated by moments of calm.”