Location and Orbit
The Atmosphere and
Interior and Physical Structure
Moons and Rings
Missions to Uranus
History and Timeline
References & Links
Uranus: Atmosphere and
Like the atmospheres of Saturn and Jupiter, Uranusís ďsurfaceĒ is covered by a striped pattern of winds that circle its longitudes. This is cloaked, however, by the envelope of methane that surrounds it. Another effect of the methane presence is the absorption of red wavelength light which gives Uranus is turquoise appearance. Thereís more than just methane in the atmosphere: higher up in the stratosphere hovers a hydrocarbon smog. Clouds of methane ice float low in the Uranian troposphere.
The composition of Uranusís atmosphere is 82.5 percent molecular hydrogen, 15.2 percent Helium, and 2.3 percent Methane. Trace amounts of Hydrogen Deuteride exist, with possible aerosols of ammonia ice, water ice, ammonia hydrosulfide, and methane ice.
Interior motion in Uranus forms the planetary magnetosphere. Most likely the internal movement of a conducive material (e.g. water) is the primary cause for the field. Before Voyager 2ís fly-by, scientists wondered if the planetís magnetosphere would mirror the symmetrical fields discovered around Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. Rather, Uranusís conical field is unique. The fly-by revealed a magnetosphere 59 degrees from the rotational axis that is further offset from the planetís center. As with Saturn, the abundance of moons and rings contributes to the complex behavior of the inner magnetosphere, which Voyager was unable to map. Saturnís moon Triton also plays a role in the equilibrium of planetís magnetosphere.
Copyright © 2000 by Gary Chan and Matthew McDermott. All rights reserved.