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 Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier
29.05.2017 | University of Strathclyde

nachricht Camera on NASA's Lunar Orbiter survived 2014 meteoroid hit
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Camera on NASA's Lunar Orbiter survived 2014 meteoroid hit

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>