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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Weather on the Outer Planets of Uranus and Neptune: The Limits of Extreme Winds

•, Catherine Griffin
 Blowing at speeds of over 620 miles per hour, these hurricane-like storms can last for years as they tear across the two planets. Now, researchers have set an upper limit for the thickness of jet streams on the planets; they've learned a little bit more about the surface weather on these two worlds.
The climates of Neptune and Uranus are difficult to study. While they both feature strong winds in their upper atmospheres, researchers have long wondered what happens in the shallower areas located near the surface of these planets. In order to find out, researchers used a novel method for analyzing the gravitational field of the planets in order to determine an upper limit for the thickness of the atmospheric layer.
Deviations in the distribution of mass in planets cause measurable fluctuations in the gravitational field. For example, an airplane flying near a large mountain feels the slight extra gravitational pull of that mountain on Earth. In the same way, Uranus and Neptune can also feel pull.

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