Scientists have first discovered a cyclone at the north pole of Uranus

It takes Uranus 84 years to orbit the Sun, so when the planet’s north polar region was last pointed at Earth, radio telescope technology was in its infancy.

But now, over the past few years, scientists have been using radio telescopes like the Very Large Array (VLA) as Uranus slowly reveals more and more of its north pole.

Microwave observations of the VLA in 2021 and 2022 show a giant cyclone orbiting this region, with a bright compact spot centered on Uranus’ pole.

The data also reveals patterns in temperature, zonal wind speed, and trace gas variations consistent with a polar cyclone.

Scientists have long known that the south pole of Uranus has a twisted shape. When Voyager 2 flew past Uranus in 1986, it detected high wind speeds there. However, the way the planet was tilted prevented Voyager from seeing the north pole.

But the VLA in New Mexico has been studying Uranus for several years, and observations made in 2015, 2021, and 2022 have provided insights deep into Uranus’ atmosphere.

Thermal radiation data has shown that the circulating air at the north pole appears warmer and drier, a sign of a strong cyclone.

“These observations tell us much more about the history of Uranus. It’s a much more dynamic world than you might think,” said Alex Akins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Letters. .

“This is not just a blue ball of gas. There’s a lot going on under the hood.”

Uranus photographed by Voyager 2 in 1986. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The researchers said the cyclone on Uranus is similar to the polar cyclones seen by the Cassini mission on Saturn.

Thanks to new discoveries, cyclones (which rotate in the same direction as their planet) or anticyclones (which rotate in the opposite direction) have been identified at the poles of every planet in our solar system that has an atmosphere.

The researchers say this confirms the common truth that planets with dense atmospheres – regardless of whether the worlds are made of rock or gas – all show signs of swirling vortices at the poles.

The north pole of Uranus is now in spring. As this continues into the summer, astronomers hope to see even more changes in its atmosphere.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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