Scientists observe cyclones raging on planet Uranus

Scientists observe cyclones raging on planet Uranus

As opposed to Earth's 365-day rotation, Uranus' current orbit is unusual in that it takes 84 years to complete one revolution around the Sun

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, May 25, 2023, 10:07 AM IST
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Nasa's Voyager 2 space probe flew past Uranus in 1986 | Science Photo Library

At 2.9 billion kilometres from the Sun, Uranus is currently in an exceptional position in its orbit, providing telescopes on Earth with a previously unheard-of perspective.

For the first time, researchers have found compelling evidence that the pole of Uranus is home to violent cyclones. The data support a well-known theory regarding planets with thick atmospheres, which states that the poles will have a spinning vortex.

After photos from the Voyager-2 mission revealed methane cloud tops with winds whirling faster at the polar centre than over the remainder of the pole, it had been known for a long that Uranus may have such swirling vortex at its pole.

The new study published in the Geophysical Research Letters states that the new radio telescope observations of Uranus reveal several interesting features, including a compact feature at the centre of the North Pole which appears warmer than its surroundings.

The observations by the Very Large Array in 2021 and 2022 revealed a bright, compact spot centred at Uranus' pole at various wavelengths.

“These observations tell us a lot more about the story of Uranus. It’s a much more dynamic world than you might think. It isn’t just a plain blue ball of gas. There’s a lot happening under the hood," lead author Alex Akins, said in a statement.

Nasa said that the cyclone, which is compactly shaped, is like those spotted by the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn and is filled with warm and dry air at its core.

The new finding now confirms the presence of cyclones, which rotate in the same direction their planet rotates, and anti-cyclones, which rotate in the opposite direction on every planet in our solar system.

The only exception is Mercury since the planet has no atmosphere.

As opposed to Earth's 365-day rotation, Uranus' current orbit is unusual in that it takes 84 years to complete one revolution around the Sun. Since 2015, the planet's poles have been visible from Earth, providing astronomers with a rare opportunity to study this far-off planet.

Four times wider than Earth, Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and takes about 17 hours to rotate once on its axis. Strangely, the planet rotates on its side from east to west.

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