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Uranus has a 'new feature' and it's very attractive, Nasa reveals

10 February 2019

"Thankfully we're not too far away from having an answer, as the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to diagnose the temperatures and chemistry responsible for these reflectivity changes that Hubble has been monitoring".

The first planet found with the aid of a telescope, Uranus was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel, NASA said.

The space agency also spotted a new storm brewing on Neptune.

It's unclear how these storms form, NASA said.

The frosty planet can be seen with a massive white cap dominating its northern pole, and as NASA explains in a new blog post its odd appearance is actually owed to its freakish orientation. Now experiencing summer in its southern hemisphere, a dark, stormy spot can be seen in its northern hemisphere that NASA says is about 6,800 miles across-about 2.5 times the width of the continental United States.

The methane gas then freezes to form ice crystals in the upper atmosphere, similar to the way clouds form as air is pushed over mountains here on Earth. Based on their observations, scientists measured the storm at about 6,800 miles across.

"The November 2018 image of Uranus occurs at a time 10 years after the equinox, when the northern hemisphere was just emerging into spring sunlight after spending decades in polar winter", Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer at the University of Leicester, told Gizmodo.

In order to determine what weather is like on these most distant planets, NASA must take many images over an extended period of time to monitor changes in the planets' atmosphere over time, hopefully giving them a long term record to work with.

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The causes of these dark spots is a mystery, but because they're only seen at the bluest wavelengths, "my money is on some sort of coloration of the clouds", said Irwin.

"The images indicate that the vortices probably develop deeper in Neptune's atmosphere, becoming visible only when the top of the storm reaches higher altitudes".

The agency added: "Just as meteorologists can not predict the weather on Earth by studying a few snapshots, astronomers can not track atmospheric trends on solar system planets without regularly repeated observations". The giant is sporting a wide white spot across its north pole.

Nasa explained: "Scientists believe this new feature is a result of Uranus" unique rotation. It's now mid-summer at Uranus' north pole, resulting in the protracted white cap. Because of this extreme tilt, during the planet's summer the Sun shines nearly directly onto the north pole and never sets.

Like the Earth, Uranus and Neptune have seasons, which have their own characteristics.

Ice giants Uranus and Neptune have water-rich interiors coated with hydrogen, helium and a pinch of methane, the latter of which gives these outer planets their distinctive cyan complexion.

"A narrow cloud band encircles the planet north of the equator".

Uranus has a 'new feature' and it's very attractive, Nasa reveals