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Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune

7 Feb 2019, 15:00 UTC
Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley)

The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

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