No, you cannot breathe on Uranus.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can You Breathe On Uranus? (EXPLAINED)
Relevant Facts About Uranus
Uranus is the seventh planet of our solar system, and is the most likely planet to cause young people to giggle.
Like Saturn and Jupiter, Uranus is a gas giant.
However, unlikely Saturn and Jupiter, it is also designated as an “ice giant.”
Gas giants do not have a solid surface that humans can land ships on, and neither do ice giants.
But rather than a gaseous planet with a solid core, the ice giants are mostly a dense slushy mix of water, methane, and ammonia, with a solid core.
Like Saturn and Jupiter, the atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium, though there are traces of methane, water, and ammonia.
The atmosphere of Uranus is extremely cold, around a negative 225 degrees Celsius.
The winds are powerful, exceeding 500 miles per hour.
Relevant Facts About Human Respiration
The atmosphere around Earth supports human life.
The air we breathe is composed of 78% nitrogen, and 21% oxygen.
There are also trace amounts of carbon dioxide, argon, krypton, and more.
When we breathe in the air, our lungs collect the oxygen, and then exhale the gases we cannot use (like the nitrogen) as well as the byproducts of our respiration.
Humans do not function well when there is not enough oxygen in the “air” that we breathe.
Lack of sufficient oxygen makes us feel dizzy, nauseous, and confused.
We may lose consciousness, or even die.
Humans can survive when the balance of oxygen to the other gases is greater than we are used to.
But longer term exposure to excess oxygen causes permanent physical damage to the nervous system and delicate tissues.
Why Can’t Humans Breathe On Uranus?
Putting aside all of the practical difficulties of getting to Uranus, the reason humans cannot breathe upon reaching the atmosphere of the planet is that the atmosphere of Uranus does not contain enough oxygen in a form that supports human life.
There are oxygen molecules in the atmosphere of Uranus.
But not in a form that humans can breathe.
There are tons of water ice clouds around the slushy planet.
But the ice cannot be breathed by humans.
Also, the atmosphere is frigidly cold.
Trying to inhale the atmospheric mix would cause damage to delicate human tissues.
Secondary to the composition of the atmosphere and the freezing temperatures, the wind speeds would make it physically difficult to breathe in.
Now, people might argue that you can breathe on Uranus because you could breathe in hydrogen gas, and you could breathe in helium gas.
This is true, humans can physically breathe in both of these gases.
But humans can survive on neither of these gases, and any attempt to breathe these gases will result in unconsciousness and death.
Breathing On Other Planets
People do not realize just how special Earth is.
Of all the planets in the solar system, Earth is the only one with an atmosphere that we can breathe.
Some of the planets simply do not have enough oxygen.
Others are toxic.
Still others lack gravity in a sufficient amount to hold an atmosphere at all, leaving very little of any element or compound left for humans to breathe.
Thus, if we embark out into the solar system with the goal of colonizing other planets, moons, asteroids, or other spaces, we’ll have to bring along with us or make the air that we need to breathe.
Did You Know? (Other Facts About Uranus)
Here are some facts you may not have known about Uranus:
- The atmospheric pressure on Uranus is really similar to that of the atmospheric pressure of Earth. Compare that to Venus, where the atmospheric pressure at the surface of the planet is about the same as being under the water close to 3,000 feet on Earth.
- The methane in the planet’s atmosphere gives Uranus its blue color.
- Uranus is located about 2 billion miles from the sun. Compare that to Earth, which was only 91 million miles from the sun.
- Uranus rotates fully once in 17-18 Earth hours. Compare that to Saturn, which spins once fully in 10 hours.
- Uranus has two sets of rings. There is an inner set, and an outer set.
- Uranus has 27 moons. Most of them are named after famous characters from classic literature, such as Oberon, Titania, Puck, Mab, and Juliet.
- The gravity on Uranus is similar to that of Earth, but about 90-91% or so.
- It takes Uranus more than 83 Earth years to orbit the sun one time. To compare, it takes Pluto 248 years, and it takes Mercury only 88 days to orbit the sun one time.
- It took Voyager 2 more than 9 years to reach Uranus to do a fly-by.
- While Uranus is called an ice giant, the core of Uranus is though to be hot, around 5000 Kelvin. Earth’s core temperature is similar. In contrast, Jupiter’s core is though to be more than 24,000 Kelvin.
Uranus is a fascinating planet, and we look forward to learning more about it as the progress of space exploration continues.
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