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Uranus in the Sky. Uranus. As seen by Voyager. Uranus Highlights. Accidently discovered in March 1781 by William Herschel Fits Bode ’ s Law! Visited by Voyager 2 in 1986 Suspicious lack of internal heat – probably leads to bland appearance of atmosphere Composition: ~75% H, ~25% he

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As seen by Voyager

uranus highlights
Uranus Highlights
  • Accidently discovered in March 1781 by William Herschel
    • Fits Bode’s Law!
  • Visited by Voyager 2 in 1986
  • Suspicious lack of internal heat – probably leads to bland appearance of atmosphere
  • Composition: ~75% H, ~25% he
  • Probably a small rocky core (3% of total mass)
  • Ice-rock “slush” interior
  • Bluish color derives from methane which is a good absorber of red light
discovery of uranus
Discovery of Uranus

William Herschel at left discovered Uranus by accident. He used the 6-inch telescope at right, which he built himself.

oddball properties of uranus
Oddball Properties of Uranus
  • Magnetic field:
    • About same Earth’s field
    • BUT, dipole inclined by 60o and offset from planet center by 1/3 of RU

Caught during a field reversal???

  • Tilt:
    • Extreme tilt remains unexplained
    • Each pole spends 42 years in light and then 42 in darkness
rings of uranus
Rings of Uranus
  • Discovered March 1977 during a stellar occultation
  • Nine narrow rings ranging in width 10-100 km
  • Thin and faint with particles of size cm to several meters
  • Dust fills inter-ring gaps
    • Requires replenishment
  • Moons Cordelia and Ophelia act to shepherd some rings
share question
Share Question

Seasons on Uranus are

a) as long as Uranus' year

b) non-existent

c) one fourth of Uranus' year, or about 20 Earth years long

d) four times Uranus' year, or about 320 Earth years long

discovery of neptune
Discovery of Neptune
  • By 1821, the orbit of Uranus clearly deviated from its predicted path which couldn’t be explained by influence of known planets.
    • Evidence for another planet!
  • “Discovered” by Adams (English, late 1845) and Leverrier (France, 1846) independently
  • 1st observed by Galle (German) on 9/23/1846
neptune s atmosphere
Neptune’s Atmosphere
  • Belts
  • Zones
  • Clouds
  • Wind - 2200kph at the equator
  • Storms - ovals and Great Dark Spot
  • Great Dark Spot:
    • High pressure region in S. hemisphere, about size of Earth
    • By 1994, Spot had disappeared, and a new Dark Spot had formed at N. latitudes (HST)
neptune s magnetic field
Neptune’s Magnetic Field
  • Surface field similar to Earth’s in strength
  • Magnetic axis tilted by 47o
  • Dipole offset by 1/2 RN

Unlikely that both Uranus and Neptune are undergoing field reversals at the same time!

internal energy of neptune
Internal Energy of Neptune
  • Uranus lacks convection and therefore storms
  • Neptune does have internal heat like Jupiter and Saturn (Neptune emits 60% more than absorbs)

How can Uranus and Neptune be so different when so similar in size and mass?

[Inhibition of convection in Uranus?]

rings of neptune
Rings of Neptune

Voyager 2 found rings, although there had been previous evidence for them

  • Dark and faint
  • Little intergap dust
  • Rings likely composed of dust themselves
  • Bright arcs in out ring (effect of shepherding?)