Astronomers noticed huge storms on the planet Uranus. The atmosphere on Uranus is usually calm but recent storms on the planet have intrigued the scientists and are now looking at the planet’s atmosphere from an entirely different perspective.
Chair of astronomy and professor at the University of California, Imke de Pater said the weather on Uranus has been tremendously active. Professor de Pater is the leader of the scientific team who noticed this activity for the first time with the help of the W.M. Keck Observatory’s adaptive optics in Hawaii.
Co-investigator and member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Heidi Hammel said:
“This type of activity would have been expected in 2007, when Uranus’s once-every-42-year equinox occurred and the sun shined directly on the equator. But we predicted that such activity would have died down by now. Why we see these incredible storms now is beyond anybody’s guess.”
While observing the planet on August 5 and August 6, de Pater and his team identified at least eight large storms on the surface of Uranus, in the planet’s northern hemisphere. One of these storms was especially amazing due to its brightness. Astronomers said, regarding the storm, that it was Uranus’ biggest storm ever, measuring 2.2 microns (wavelength used to sense clouds below the tropopause – the lowest boundary of the stratosphere). Imke de Pater said that pressure spans below the tropopause between 300 mbar and 500 mbar. This is half the pressure on the surface of planet Earth. At this wavelength, the storm was responsible for 30 percent of all the light mirrored by the planet Uranus.
Marc Delcroix, one of the amateur astronomers documenting the events on Uranus confirmed the discovery of a bright spot on images from fellow French amateur astronomer Régis De-Bénedictis.
But the bright storm found by amateur astronomers was not the same as the one identified by the Keck telescope. As claimed by a planetary scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Larry Sromovsky what the amateur astronomers discovered was a 1.6 microns storm from deeper in the planet’s atmosphere.
“These unexpected observations remind us keenly of how little we understand about atmospheric dynamics in outer planet atmospheres,”
The authors wrote in their paper.