Uranus up close: What NASA ‘ice giant’ mission would teach us

A mission to Uranus is now the top future-mission priority of NASA planetary scientists, and exploration of this mysterious ice giant may shed light on a kind of planet now known to be one of the most common in the universe, researchers say.

Since astronomers discovered the first exoplanets orbiting distant stars more than 30 years ago, one of the most common kinds of alien worlds that scientists have detected are ice giants. Whereas gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn are, as their name suggests, mostly gas, ice giants such as Uranus and Neptune are rich in heavier elements.

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