Magazine article Science News

Cloudy Puzzle on Uranus

Magazine article Science News

Cloudy Puzzle on Uranus

Article excerpt

Shrouded in darkness for 20 years, the northern hemisphere of Uranus is slowly emerging from the shadows. With sunlight once again illuminating the planet's northern face, astronomers are taking their first peek at a region on Uranus that they have never before seen with modern detectors.

Observers have been astonished to find that the planet's atmosphere, thought to be bland and nearly featureless, contains several enormous bands of bright clouds (SN: 11/29/97, p. 343).

New images, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit as well as at the WM. Keck Observatory and NASNs Infrared Telescope Facility on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, reveal even more of a puzzle. Each year since the mid-1990s, as the sun has illuminated more and more of the northern hemisphere, the clouds have appeared brightest along the northernmost, newly sunlit edge. But bright clouds seen at this boundary in 1998, which now should lie well in from the edge, are no longer detectable, reports Heidi B. …

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