Capitalizing on the incomparable optical capabilities of the Keck Telescope, scientists have gained an unprecedented look at the atmosphere of Uranus, providing new insight into some of the most enigmatic weather in the solar system.
A pair of images unveiled here today (Nov. 10) at a meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, reveal more cloud features -- an abundance of atmospheric phenomena that vary dramatically in size, brightness and longevity -- than have been observed before on Uranus. "The cloud features range from small to large, from dim and diffuse to sharp and bright, from rapidly-evolving systems to stable features that last for years," says Lawrence Sromovsky, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madisons Space Science and Engineering Center.
Whats more, the new Keck images captured several Uranian weather oddities, including a big southern hemisphere storm feature that, over the course of several years, seesaws over 5 degrees of latitude. "Its weird behavior that hasnt been recognized before on Uranus. Its similar to whats been seen on Neptune, although there the oscillation is much more rapid," Sromovsky explains. "It is not surprising to see cloud features drifting in latitude, but our models dont show these oscillations. We dont know what makes it keep coming back to its starting point."
Lawrence Sromovsky | EurekAlert!
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