Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Huge Spring Storms Rouse Uranus From Winter Hibernation

Date:
April 1, 1999
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
If springtime on Earth were anything like it will be on Uranus, we would be experiencing waves of massive storms, each one covering the country from Kansas to New York, with temperatures of 300 degrees below zero.

If springtime on Earth were anything like it will be on Uranus, we would be experiencing waves of massive storms, each one covering the country from Kansas to New York, with temperatures of 300 degrees below zero.

Related Articles


A dramatic new time-lapse movie by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows for the first time seasonal changes on the planet. Once considered one of the blander-looking planets, Uranus is now revealed as a dynamic world with the brightest clouds in the outer Solar System and a fragile ring system that wobbles like an unbalanced wagon wheel. The clouds are probably made of crystals of methane, which condense as warm bubbles of gas well up from deep in the atmosphere of Uranus.

The movie, created by Hubble researcher Erich Karkoschka of the University of Arizona, clearly shows for the first time the wobble in the ring system, which is made of billions of tiny pebbles. This wobble may be caused by Uranus' shape, which is like a slightly flattened globe, along with the gravitational tug from its many moons.

Although Uranus has been observed for more than 200 years, "no one has ever seen this view in the modern era of astronomy because of the long year of Uranus -- more than 84 Earth years," said Dr. Heidi Hammel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The seasonal changes on Earth are caused by our planet's rotational pole being slightly tilted. Consequently, the Earth's Southern and Northern hemispheres are alternately tipped toward or away from the Sun as the Earth moves around its orbit. Uranus is tilted completely over on its side, giving rise to extreme 20-year-long seasons and unusual weather. For nearly a quarter of the Uranian year, the sun shines directly over each pole, leaving the other half of the planet plunged into a long, dark, frigid winter.

The Northern Hemisphere of Uranus is just now coming out of the grip of its decades-long winter. As the sunlight reaches some latitudes, it warms the atmosphere. This appears to be causing the atmosphere to come out of a frigid hibernation and stir back to life. Uranus does not have a solid surface, but is instead a ball of mostly hydrogen and helium. Absorption of red light by methane in the atmosphere gives the planet its cyan color.

Uranus was discovered March 13, 1781, by William Herschel. Early visual observers reported Jupiter-like cloud belts on the planet, but when NASA's Voyager 2 flew by in 1986, Uranus appeared as featureless as a cue ball. In the past 13 years, the planet has moved far enough along its orbit for the sun to shine at mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. By the year 2007, the sun will be shining directly over Uranus' equator.

Karkoschka, Hammel and other investigators used Hubble from 1994 through 1998 to take images of Uranus in both visible and near-infrared light.

The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for NASA, under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

- end -

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Uranus movie will air on NASA Television, Monday March 29 during the noon video file. NASA Television is broadcast on the GE2 satellite located on transponder 9C, at 85 degrees West longitude, frequency 3880.0 MHz, audio 6.8 MHz. The movie is also available on the Internet at:

http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html

http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Huge Spring Storms Rouse Uranus From Winter Hibernation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990401061747.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (1999, April 1). Huge Spring Storms Rouse Uranus From Winter Hibernation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990401061747.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "Huge Spring Storms Rouse Uranus From Winter Hibernation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990401061747.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins