Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Tipped planets
Name: prairie view
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1993 - 1999

Why is Uranus tipped on its side?

This is one of the great unanswered questions about our solar system. Some astronomers think that this is just the way Uranus developed, but that doesn't seem to me to be consistent with how most scientists think that the solar system developed. The other widely-held belief is that the tipping is the result of a collision between Uranus and some other body long ago. There are some problems with this explanation too: if such a collision took place, why is Uranus' orbit so nearly circular (just like the orbits of most of the other planets, which presumably di d not suffer the same sort of collision)? Similarly, assuming Uranus' moons formed before the collision, why are their orbits also nearly circular? They orbit Uranus in essentially the same plane as Uranus' equator.

As you can see, we don't have to go to the ends of the universe to find puzzling questions.

RC Winther

Click here to return to the Astronomy Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory
n b