Rotation periods of Uranus and Neptune revisited

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Rotation periods of Uranus and Neptune revisited

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 21st June 2010, 8:22 pm

Uranus and Neptune: Shape and Rotation

Abstract wrote:Both Uranus and Neptune are thought to have strong zonal winds with velocities of several hundred meters per second. These wind velocities, however, assume solid-body rotation periods based on Voyager 2 measurements of periodic variations in the planets' radio signals and of fits to the planets' magnetic fields; 17.24h and 16.11h for Uranus and Neptune, respectively. The realization that the radio period of Saturn does not represent the planet's deep interior rotation and the complexity of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune raise the possibility that the Voyager 2 radio and magnetic periods might not represent the deep interior rotation periods of the ice giants. Moreover, if there is deep differential rotation within Uranus and Neptune no single solid-body rotation period could characterize the bulk rotation of the planets. We use wind and shape data to investigate the rotation of Uranus and Neptune. The shapes (flattening) of the ice giants are not measured, but only inferred from atmospheric wind speeds and radio occultation measurements at a single latitude. The inferred oblateness values of Uranus and Neptune do not correspond to bodies rotating with the Voyager rotation periods. Minimization of wind velocities or dynamic heights of the 1 bar isosurfaces, constrained by the single occultation radii and gravitational coefficients of the planets, leads to solid-body rotation periods of ~16.58h for Uranus and ~17.46h for Neptune. Uranus might be rotating faster and Neptune slower than Voyager rotation speeds. We derive shapes for the planets based on these rotation rates. Wind velocities with respect to these rotation periods are essentially identical on Uranus and Neptune and wind speeds are slower than previously thought. Alternatively, if we interpret wind measurements in terms of differential rotation on cylinders there are essentially no residual atmospheric winds.

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