What is the coldest planet in our Solar System?

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Illustration of Uranus (Image Credit: Getty images)

What do you think is the coldest planet in our solar system? The sun heats up the planets that make up our solar system. We are around 100 million miles from the sun here on Earth, about the proper distance for life to exist.

As the planet furthest from the sun’s warmth, you may expect Neptune to be the coldest of the solar system’s planets. The distance between Neptune and the sun is a mind-boggling three billion kilometers.

However, the coldest planet is not Neptune, but Uranus – even though Uranus is a billion miles closer to the sun than Neptune. According to NASA, Uranus has the solar system’s coldest recorded temperature of minus 371 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 224 degrees Celsius). The temperature on Neptune is still freezing — generally about minus 353 degrees F (minus 214 degrees C) — but Uranus tops that.

Uranus’ chilly temperature has nothing to do with the planet’s distance from the sun. Uranus was thrown onto its side millions of years ago when a massive object collided with it. Uranus still rotates around the sun on its side today. During the collision, a tiny amount of heat stored within Uranus was released into the atmosphere.

The planet’s internal heat is a holdover from its formation. Smaller rock fragments collide to form planets, which are built piecemeal over many millions of years. The planet’s temperature rises somewhat with each collision of these rocks. If you clap your hands together for an extended period, they will start to feel heated – the same thing occurs with planets.

Neptune wasn’t struck by a massive asteroid-like Uranus was. Therefore it has been able to hang on to more of its heat.

You may also be astonished to find that the nearest planet to the sun, Mercury, can also be quite chilly. Aside from being over 400 degrees Celsius on the side facing the sun, Mercury’s other side is approximate – 328 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 200 degrees C).

Mercury, unlike Earth, has no atmosphere, which is why this is the case. An environment like ours behaves like a blanket, trapping heat in and dispersing it all around. Because it does not have this coverage, Mercury’s front side and the rear side may have quite different temperatures.

Measuring temperatures in space

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UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1754: A recent Hubble Space Telescope (HST) view reveals Uranus surrounded by its 4 major rings and 10 of its 17 known satellites
(Image Credit: Getty images)

We can send probes to investigate the atmosphere directly from the planet’s surface for certain neighbouring planets like Mars. However, we haven’t been able to accomplish this for faraway planets like Neptune and Uranus.

Instead, we have to find out how cold they are by detecting their temperature from here on Earth. We achieve this by examining the light from the planet, which may tell us the sorts of atoms and molecules which make up the planet’s atmosphere. This information allows us to precisely know the planet’s temperature: the atoms and molecules operate as a type of temperature “fingerprint” for the planet.

While these planets in our solar system are exceedingly frigid, there are far chillier regions in the cosmos. The coldest of them is the Boomerang Nebula, a cloud of dust and gas 30 million billion miles distant from us. The temperature reaches – 457 degrees F (minus 272 degrees C) (minus 272 degrees C).

Nothing in the cosmos can be colder than minus 459 degrees F (minus 273 degrees C) since at that temperature, the tiny particles and atoms that everything is comprised of effectively cease moving, and once that occurs, it’s impossible to get colder. This temperature is known as absolute zero. This implies it is improbable that we will ever locate someplace in the Universe colder than the Boomerang Nebula.

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