Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A warm South Pole? Yes, on Neptune!

19.09.2007
Summer season on Neptune creates escape route for methane

An international team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope has discovered that the south pole of Neptune is much hotter than the rest of the planet. This is consistent with the fact that it is late southern summer and this region has been in sunlight for about 40 years.

The scientists are publishing the first temperature maps of the lowest portion of Neptune's atmosphere, showing that this warm south pole is providing an avenue for methane to escape out of the deep atmosphere.

"The temperatures are so high that methane gas, which should be frozen out in the upper part of Neptune's atmosphere (the stratosphere), can leak out through this region," said Glenn Orton, lead author of the paper reporting the results. "This solves a long-standing problem of identifying the source of Neptune's high stratospheric methane abundances."

The temperature at the south pole is higher than anywhere else on the planet by about 10 degrees Celsius. The average temperature on Neptune is about minus 200 degrees Celsius.

Neptune, the farthest planet of our solar system, is located about 30 times farther away from the Sun than Earth is. Only about 1/900th as much sunlight reaches Neptune as our planet. Yet, the small amount of sunlight it receives significantly affects the planet's atmosphere.

The astronomers found that these temperature variations are consistent with seasonal changes. A Neptunian year lasts about 165 Earth years. It has been summer in the south pole of Neptune for about 40 years now, and they predict that as winter turns to summer in the north pole, an abundance of methane will leak out of a warm north pole in about 80 years.

"Neptune's south pole is currently tilted toward the Sun, just like the Earth's south pole is tilted toward the Sun during summer in the Southern Hemisphere," explains Orton. "But on Neptune the antarctic summer lasts 40 years instead of a few months, and a lot of solar energy input during that time can make big temperature differences between the regions in continual sunlight and those with day-night variations."

"Neptune has the strongest winds of any planet in the Solar System; sometimes, the wind blows there at more than 2000 kilometres per hour. It is certainly not the place you would like to go on a holiday," he adds.

The new observations also reveal mysterious high-latitude 'hot spots' in the stratosphere that have no immediate analogue in other planetary atmospheres. The astronomers think that these hot spots are generated by upwelling gas from much deeper in the atmosphere.

Methane is not the primary constituent of Neptune's atmosphere, which, as a giant planet, is mostly composed of the light gases, hydrogen and helium. But it is the methane in Neptune's upper atmosphere that absorbs the red light from the Sun and reflects the blue light back into space, making Neptune appear blue.

The new results were obtained with the mid-infrared camera/spectrometer VISIR on ESO's VLT 8.2-m Unit Telescope 3 (Melipal).

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2007/pr-41-07.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Seeing the quantum future... literally
16.01.2017 | University of Sydney

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>