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Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
This drawing shows how forming planets drew gas to themselves.
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Image from: The New Solar System

How a proto-planet sweeps up nearby material

As shown in this picture, while they were forming in the solar nebula, the nucleii of the planets-to-be (called protoplanets) drew material to themselves from the cloud of gas and dust around them. The bigger protoplanets were able to attract even more gaseous material unto themselves.

Big protoplanets such as Uranus and Neptune were positioned far out in the primordial nebula where there was less gas, and so these protoplanets were not able to sweep up as much gas as other giant planets.


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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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The position of Uranus when gas changed to ice

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Uranus' Atmospheric Hazes

Besides methane, Uranus' atmosphere contains more sophisticated atmospheric molecules such as ethane gas, acetylene, and diacetylene. All these molecules form layers of haze at different altitudes high...more

Uranus' Mesosphere

The mesosphere of Uranus is a region of balance between warming and cooling. That essentially means that nothing happens there. Except for diffusion, the atmosphere is still. Upper reaches of the atmosphere,...more

An Overview of Uranus' Atmospheric Structure

As on Earth, the atmosphere of Uranus consists of a troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere. The troposphere is the region where the visible clouds are to be found. The stratosphere, as...more

Altitude Variations of the Belts & Zones

On Uranus, as on Jupiter, the winds in the belts and zones blow first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. Wind blows east in a belt, and west in a zone. The clouds rise up in a belt, and...more

Why Uranus looks like a "bullseye"

The striped cloud bands on Uranus, like Jupiter, are divided into belts and zones. On Uranus the belts and zones are hard to distinquish. The left picture shows the north pole of Uranus. In this picture...more

Uranus Clouds, Overview

The clouds of Uranus, composed of methane crystals, are found very low in the troposphere, and are difficult to distinquish below the smog haz es of the planet's atmosphere. False color is used, in the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA