A revolutionary breakthrough has rocked the world of planetary science again this week: NASA scientists Strong evidence of the presence of a polar cyclone on the planet Uranus. This is something that has never been seen before on this planet.
Specifically, using the Very Large Array Telescope, NASA scientists detected this phenomenon at the north pole of Uranus, confirming an important principle that applies to all planets in our solar system with substantial atmospheres: Whether gaseous or rocky, their atmospheres often have a vortex rotating at the poles.
Uranus, despite being one of the most intriguing planets in our solar system, remains one of the most unexplored; Only one spacecraft has passed the planet (the Voyager-2 space probe) and that was in the 1980s (specifically 1986). Now, in New Mexico, Carl G. Astronomers using the Jansky Very Large Array, A bright, compact spot centered on the north pole of Uranus has been observed at various wavelengths. This feature probably indicates the presence of a polar cyclone, experts say.
“These observations tell us a lot about the history of Uranus,” explains Alex Akins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It’s a more dynamic world than you think. It’s not just a simple blue ball of GaS. There’s a lot going on under the hood.”
And it is that researchers looked beneath the ice giant’s clouds and determined that the air circulating in Uranus’ north pole seems to be warm and dry. These new details are also due to the position of the planet in orbit. It takes 84 years to complete one complete revolution, so during the last decades the poles don’t point to the earth, Now, it is in a more favorable position, which is why in recent years, Uranus has become a more attractive and popular subject of study.
In such a situation, this new research indicates that NASA’s Voyager 2 May Have Spotted a Polar Cyclone Decades Ago Although this conclusion was not reached at that time. The Voyager 2 probe first detected this unusual eddy feature in the polar regions of Uranus, but infrared measurements taken by the spacecraft failed to reveal temperature variations that might indicate a cyclone. Alternatively, something strange may be going on.
“Does the hot core we see represent the same high-velocity circulation seen by Voyager? Either Are there many cyclones in the atmosphere of Uranus?”Surprise akins.
They found that the air circulating over the North Pole appeared to be warm and dry, a sign of a powerful cyclone. These observations, made in 2015, 2021 and 2022, allowed researchers to delve deeper into Uranus’ atmosphere than ever before. scientists tell The cyclone on Uranus has a compact size, similar to those observed by the Cassini spacecraft on Saturn. And, like the planet Saturn, Uranus’ center also has hotter, drier air than its surroundings.
“The fact that we’re still discovering simple things like how Uranus’ atmosphere works really excites me to learn more about this mysterious planet,” experts say.
With this discovery, it is now confirmed that cyclones or anticyclones (rotating in the opposite direction to their host planet) do exist. With substantial atmospheres at the poles of all the planets in our Solar System, except Mercury.
As a curiosity, Uranus was discovered by the German-British astronomer and musician Sir William Herschel in 1781, It was the first planet to be discovered through a telescope and was named after a Greek god of the sky, making it the only planet in our Solar System to be named after a Greek god rather than a Roman one.
Alex Akins et al. 2023. Evidence of a polar cyclone on Uranus from VLA observations. Geophysical Research Letters 50(10): e2023GL102872; DOI: 10.1029/2023gl102872