For decades, scientists have witnessed swirling clouds and violent winds in the atmospheres of ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Voyager data in the 1980s revealed that the pair actually has some of the strongest east-west jet streams in the solar system.
But scientists’ understanding of these planets’ atmospheric circulations stopped there; they didn’t know whether shallow processes or dynamics extending far into the interior powered the jet streams. Based on new computer simulations and numerical analysis to Voyager data, however, astronomers have put an upper limit on Uranus’ and Neptune’s active weather zones.
The planetary scientists centered these findings off the planets’ respective gravity fields, which they predicted based on recent deep circulation theories developed by co-authors Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and Adam Showman of 11A.
“The reason we can constrain the weather to the upper 680 miles or so is that we would see a much stronger distortion of the gravitational field if the weather extended much deeper”, William Hubards says (University of Arizona).
For decades, astronomers believed the Milky Way Galaxy in which we live was a garden-variety spiral galaxy. But by 2009, a team led by Ed Churchwell and Robert Benjamin of the University of Wisconsin investigated the galaxy with the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Starting in 2003, the team mapped the galaxy accurately for the first time, revealing that the Milky Way is a barred spiral of type SBc. Unlike a pure spiral, our galaxy has a strong central bar emanating from the hub, which then gives rise to two prominent spiral arms — the Perseus Arm and the Scutum-Centaurus Arm — and secondary arms or spurs known as Outer, New Outer, Norma, Carina-Sagittarius, and Orion-Cygnus.
The solar system lies conveniently tucked in the Orion-Cygnus Spur, some 26,000 light-years out from the galactic center. The overall diameter of the galaxy’s bright disk is some 120,000 light-years. Inside the galaxy’s nucleus lies a dormant supermassive black hole that once was a mighty giant.