July 16, 2024

Surprising Discovery at Uranus’ North Pole – ‘Not Just a Blue Ball of Gas’

Surprising Discovery at Uranus’ North Pole – ‘Not Just a Blue Ball of Gas’

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from: Tanya Banner

This is how NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft saw the planet Uranus in 1986. © NASA/JPL-Caltech

The research is focused on the planet Uranus – and is making another exciting discovery there. This time it is about viewing the planet’s north pole.

Pasadena – Uranus is one of the eight planets in our solar system, but it has not been explored much. This is partly due to the great distance between Uranus and the Sun – the average distance between Uranus and the Sun is about 2.9 billion km. Until now, the planet has only been visited by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, but that’s about to change. A mission to Uranus is among astronomy’s latest “wish list”. Uranus is one of the most exciting objects in our solar system, and the researchers who wrote the Wish List found that there are many mysteries to solve.

For this reason, Uranus is currently the focus of research. Scientists are looking for topics to investigate in a future Uranus mission and for clues about the most reasonable tools for such a mission. Recently, the James Webb space telescope showed the rings of Uranus and with the help of Voyager data a mystery of Uranus’ moons was revealed: at least four of the large moons could host inner oceans. These, too, could be closely examined during a future mission – if one knew in advance what tools would be required for the purpose.

Planet Uranus: There is a polar vortex at its north pole

While observing Uranus with the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope, researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a surprising new discovery. There appears to be a polar vortex at the ice giant’s north pole. Using radio data collected by the VLA in 2015, 2021 and 2022, the research group discovered that the air circulating over Uranus’ north pole is much warmer and drier – a clear sign of a powerful hurricane.

These observations tell us a lot about the history of Uranus. “It’s a much more dynamic world than you might think,” said Alex Akins, lead author of the study. in the journal Geophysical Research Letters published had become. “It’s not just a blue ball of gas. There’s a lot going on under the hood,” explains the researcher in one. NASA ad.

Uranus’ north pole has been pointing towards Earth again only since 2015

Discovery at the north pole of Uranus was made possible by observations in 2015, 2021 and 2022. The north pole has only been visible from Earth again since 2015 – before that, the poles had been invisible from Earth for several decades. The last time the North Pole encountered Earth, radio astronomy was still in its infancy and observations were not possible at that time.

The bright spot to the right of center shows the polar vortex at the north pole of Uranus in the three images of Uranus.
The bright spot to the right of center shows the polar vortex at the north pole of Uranus in the three images of Uranus. © NASA/JPL-Caltech/VLA

The new discovery on the planet Uranus means that a polar vortex has been detected on all planets in our solar system that have atmospheres. The only exception is the small planet Mercury – which, however, also does not have a significant atmosphere. (unpaid bill)