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Post-equinox dynamics and polar cloud structure on Uranus

By SpaceRef Editor
March 28, 2015
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Post-equinox dynamics and polar cloud structure on Uranus

Lawrence Sromovsky, Patrick Fry, Heidi Hammel, Imke de Pater, Kathy Rages

(Submitted on 2 Mar 2015)

Post equinox imaging of Uranus by HST, Keck, and Gemini telescopes has enabled new measurements of winds over previously sampled latitudes as well as measurements at high northern latitudes that have recently come into better view. These new observations also used techniques to greatly improve signal to noise ratios, making possible the detection and tracking of more subtle cloud features. The 250 m/s prograde jet peaking near 60 N was confirmed and more accurately characterized. Several long-lived cloud features have also been tracked. The winds pole-ward of 60 N are consistent with solid body rotation at a westward (prograde) rate of 4.3 deg/h with respect to Uranus’ interior. When combined with 2007 and other recent measurements, it is clear that a small but well-resolved asymmetry exists in the zonal profile at middle latitudes, peaking at 35 deg, where southern winds are 20 m/s more westward than corresponding northern winds. High S/N Keck II imaging of the north polar region of Uranus reveals a transition from streaky bands below 60 N to a region from 60 deg to nearly the north pole, where widely distributed small bright spots, resembling cumulus cloud fields, with several isolated dark spots, are the dominant style of cloud features. This presents a stark contrast to 2003 detailed views of the south polar region of Uranus when no discrete cloud features could be detected in comparable Keck II near-IR images. The pressure levels of discrete clouds estimated from spatial modulations in H and Hcont images indicate that the polar cloud features are generally in the 1.3 to 2-3 bar range, as are equatorial and several mid-latitude features. Several of the brighter mid latitude features are found above the 1.2-bar level of methane condensation.

Comments: 21 pages, 20 figures, 7 tables

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Journal reference: Icarus 220 (2012) 694-712

DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.05.029

Cite as: arXiv:1503.00592 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1503.00592v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Lawrence Sromovsky 

[v1] Mon, 2 Mar 2015 16:18:00 GMT (4015kb)

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