What's That Mysterious Spot on Uranus?

All right, stop laughing.

In all seriousness, there is a mysterious spot on the gas giant. No, really. Discover Magazine explains:

Uranus, like the other giant planets in the solar system (Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune), is made up almost entirely of gas, although it differs in composition to Jupiter and Saturn -- it has higher quantities of water, methane and ammonia ices. Unlike conventional ice, it's a super dense liquid. Uranus, like Neptune, is often referred to as an "ice giant." [...]

An image taken by planetary scientist Larry Sromovsky, with the Gemini 8.1 meter telescope shows a bright patch that is thought to be an eruption of methane ice high in the atmosphere. [...]

Understanding the nature of this spot is important, Hammel explained to Discovery News.

"The reason we care about the clouds on the planet Uranus is that they seem to be seasonally driven," said Hammel. "Uranus spins tipped over on its side, giving rise to extreme changes in sunlight as its seasons progress.

"The changes are therefore much more dramatic than for other planets. Uranus thus gives us unique insight into the energy balance in a planetary atmosphere."

Link - via Holy Kaw!


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