Uranus has an elliptical orbit that keeps it between 1.7 and 1.86 billion miles (2.7 to 3 billion kilometers) away from the Sun at any given time.
Uranus is an ice giant with the most unique tilt of any planet in our Solar System. Rotating almost a 90-degree angle from its orbital plane, Uranus looks like it is spinning on its side. The planet rotates on its axis once every 17 hours, making for a short Uranian day with a very long year.
So, exactly how long does it take Uranus to orbit the sun? The seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus, takes approximately 84 Earth years to orbit the Sun.
The infrared image below shows both hemispheres in 2004 from the W.W. Keck Observatory. You can easily see the planet’s tilt.
Table of Contents
What Is Uranus?
Uranus is an ice giant in the outer reaches of our solar system, lying approximately 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) distant from the Sun. It is roughly 19.8 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, so sunlight takes nearly three hours to reach the vast world.
Uranus is the third largest planet in our solar system, with frigid temperatures and windy conditions. But despite its colossal radius, Uranus is not very dense. Instead, the swirling fluid planet is the second least dense of all the worlds, only having more mass than Saturn.
The planet has an astounding 13 rings and 27 moons, making it quite the celestial sight! The James Webb Telescope image below shows a zoomed-in view of some of Uranus’ 13 rings.
What Is an Orbit?
NASA has two definitions of an orbit which we’ll delve into below.
First, let’s look at what an orbit is as a noun.
- An orbit is the path followed by a planet, moon, or artificial satellite while it travels around another body in space.
- Uranus is in orbit around the Sun, and its moons are in orbit around the planet Uranus.
And now, let’s see how the space agency defines an orbit as a verb.
- To travel around something, such as a moon or planet, in a curved path: to make an orbit around something.
- Uranus orbits around the Sun in a curved path.
An orbit is the way or path something goes around a space object. In addition, we call an orbiting object a satellite, whether it is natural or human-made.
For example, Uranus orbiting the Sun is a natural solar satellite, as are its moons orbiting the planet. On the other hand, the International Space Station is a human-made satellite that orbits Earth.
How Do Objects Stay in Orbit?
Newton’s first law of motion says that a moving object keeps moving unless something pulls or pushes it. Gravity holds objects within the oval or circular path of orbit. But without it, the thing would drift into space.
Because of gravity, a satellite (Uranus) continually pulls back towards its central object (the Sun.) So the constant tug-of-war between pushing and pulling keeps the satellite at a similar distance to its object.
Below is a blown-out version of the closeup image from above, where you can even see six of Uranus’ moons.
How Long Does It Take For Uranus to Orbit the Sun?
Now that we know a bit about Uranus and how an orbit is defined, it’s time to discuss how long does it take for Uranus to orbit the Sun. It takes Uranus roughly 30,687 Earth days, about 84 years, to complete one orbit around the sun.
Uranus spins on its tilted axis once every 17 hours and looks like a rolling soccer ball because of its titled rotational angle.
Even though the orbit around the Sun is long, a Uranian day is short. But what makes Uranus significantly different from other planets is that its equator is almost at a right angle to its orbit.
Scientists think the tilt likely occurred when an Earth-sized object crashed into Uranus many years ago. But the collision left the planet tilting at 97.77 degrees.
How Does Uranus’ Orbit Around The Sun Compare To Other Planets?
Uranus travels around the Sun in the same direction as the other planets in our solar system. But it rotates on its axis opposite to all except Venus. Both Uranus and Venus rotate on their axis from east to west.
Here’s how long it takes Uranus to orbit the Sun compared to the other planets.
|Earth Days/Years Around The Sun
Data: NASA Planet Comparison
Why Is the Length of Uranus’s Orbit Important?
The long time it takes Uranus to orbit the Sun drastically affects the planet’s climate, as does its tilt. Each of the planet’s poles spends many years in darkness, followed by an equal period of continuous sunshine.
Uranus’ tilted orbit also creates the solar system’s most extreme weather seasons. So the Sun shines straight over one of the poles for about a quarter of each Uranian year (about 21 Earth years). And that sends the other half of the planet into a cold, dark winter.
Earth’s northern hemisphere’s long summer days hold nothing on Uranus’s long periods of sunshine or darkness. Since we have a slight axis tilt on Earth, the long summer days or winter nights only affect a small portion of our home planet.
However, Uranus has a huge tilt, so when one pole faces the summer Sun, it leaves the winter half of the planet in one long cold night.
Additionally, the Sun’s light hits the equator during Uranus’ equinoxes. So think of the planet rotating on its side like a rotisserie chicken. It spins on its axis every 17 hours, so the whole world gets equal hours of daylight and dark. That’s quite a contrast to the planet’s 21-year summers and winters.
How Long Does It Take Uranus to Orbit the Sun?
Scientists and astronomers observe the motion of planetary orbits in our solar system over time. They measure planet positions to determine the size and shape of the solar orbits. Then they use the data to calculate other properties, like the density or mass of the planets.
By asking how long it takes Uranus to orbit the Sun, astronomers learn more about our solar system’s formation and even about how it works. In addition, studying comet and asteroid orbits tell scientists how the skies change over time.
Conclusion: How Long Does It Take Uranus to Orbit the Sun?
It takes Uranus about 84 Earth years to orbit the Sun. That’s a staggering amount of time until you consider the planet lies about 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) from the Sun. This enormous ice giant is about four times Earth’s radius but much less dense.
An orbit is a celestial path an object travels around a central body. And it is also the act of traveling around that body. So Uranus orbits the Sun once every 30,687 Earth days, making for very long years.
This fiercely cold world is unique among our solar system planets for the steep angle at which it lies. Uranus rotates on its axis opposite to most planets but at a 90-degree angle from its orbital plane. So that makes the icy giant appear to roll through space like an enormous blue snowball.