THERE’S something strange going down in Uranus.
For years, experts have thought that the seventh planet from the Sun was one of the calmest gas giants in our Solar System — but a University of Arizona astronomer believes there’s a lot more than meets the eye under the world’s surface.
Erich Karkoschka presented findings this week in Tuscon which revealed that the seemingly blue planet’s southern hemisphere rotates in a way never seen before by scientists.
“The unusual rotation of high southern latitudes of Uranus is probably due to an unusual feature in the interior of Uranus,” he said in a statement released Friday.
“While the nature of the feature and its interaction with the atmosphere are not yet known, the fact that I found this unusual rotation offers new possibilities to learn about the interior of a giant planet.”
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Karkoschka made his results known during the meeting of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Association.
Astronomers have consistently tried to find clues about the insides of the four gas planets, but groundbreaking discoveries have yet to be unveiled — until now.
“All previous observations of the giant planets indicated that these planets rotate in a regular way, meaning the rotational rates in their respective southern and northern latitudes are about the same.” Karkoschka said.
“My analysis suggests rotational rates in the high latitudes of Uranus are highly asymmetrical, with some southern latitudes possibly rotating as much as 15 per cent faster than their northern counterparts.”
Planets comprised of gas usually have thick and cloudy atmospheres which rotate at the same speed around the northern and southern hemispheres. What sets Uranus apart from the pack is its “convective clouds caused by updraft and condensation” that can sometimes extend over hundreds of miles, according to Karkoschka.
This story originally appeared on the New York Post