The Best of All Worlds

Choosing which planet is better—Uranus or Neptune—is like choosing which of your twin daughters you prefer. They’re so much alike! And how could you bring yourself to choose between them? However, I was able to make the decision for you because unlike you, dear reader, I don’t have twin daughters. So you can trust my cold, forbidding judgment in regard to these cold, forbidding gas giants.

If Neptune and Uranus were in a race to see which could get around the Sun faster, Uranus wins, hands down. But sorry Uranus, nobody really cares. In a race to see which planet is the better of the two, it’s twin sister Neptune by a nose. Both are distant spheres of gas and ice, circling the Sun in hypothermic mediocrity, but Neptune has a few positive traits that make it more worthy of its planetary title.

First of all, Neptune has a pretty good moon. Unlike Uranus, which has amassed a rabble of lousy Shakespearean satellites, Neptune has focused nearly all of its extracurricular efforts on capturing a single quality moon which astronomers aptly named Triton, after the son of the Roman god Neptune.

*WHOOOOSSHH* That's the sound effect I imagine for the Great Dark Spot as it zips across the face of Neptune.
*WHOOOOSSHH* That’s the sound effect I imagine for the Great Dark Spot as it zips across the face of Neptune.

Which brings us, stream-of-consciousness style, to the way Neptune itself got its name. This is my favourite trinket of Neptunian trivia. Neptune was the first and only planet to be theoretically predicted before it was discovered. A British astronomer named John Couch Adams and a French astronomer named Urbain Le Verrier independently calculated that the orbit of Uranus was being affected by the gravitational pull of yet another planet. Le Verrier’s friends at the Berlin Observatory were the ones to identify the new planet first. Initially, Le Verrier wanted to name the planet Neptune. Then he decided that this name was failing to feed his mammoth hubris, so he renamed it Le Verrier. Meanwhile, the British were all in a huff that their man Adams wasn’t getting his share of the credit, so finally all the astronomers agreed that Le Verrier’s name was stupid, that the planet’s name would be Neptune, and that everybody should get a trophy for finding it.

Yes, the history of Neptune’s discovery is a tale of political intrigue. That in itself makes it better than Uranus. Beyond this, I suppose Neptune is the more beautiful planet. For some reason as yet unknown, it has escaped becoming a bland cyan orb and has blossomed into a beautiful azure-blue marble, dotted with dark storms and wisps of white clouds. In a beauty contest, Neptune wins the prize over her drab twin sister.

But you know, if you think Uranus is better than Neptune, I will listen to your arguments, perhaps even without falling asleep.

Our rankings so far:

8. Venus
7. Mercury
6. Uranus
5. Neptune
1–4. ???

Leave a comment below expressing your opinion on Uranus and Neptune, then scroll back up and vote for the best planet and the worst planet in our Solar System!