AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 56 Planets and Solar System Objects
Poster, Tuesday, January 11, 2005, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[56.17] The Atmosphere of Uranus as Imaged with Keck Adaptive Optics

H. B. Hammel (Space Science Institute), I. de Pater (UCB), S. G. Gibbard (LLNL), G. W. Lockwood (Lowell), K. Rages (SETI/Ames)

Adaptive optics imaging of Uranus was obtained with NIRC2 on the Keck II 10-meter telescope in October 2003 and July 2004 through J, H, and K' filters. Dozens of discrete features were detected in the atmosphere of Uranus. We report the first measurements of winds northward of +43 deg, the first direct measurement of equatorial winds, and the highest wind velocity seen yet on Uranus. At northern mid-latitudes, the winds may have accelerated when compared to earlier HST and Keck observations; southern wind speeds have not changed since Voyager measurements in 1986. The equator of Uranus exhibits a subtle wave structure, with diffuse patches roughly every 30 degs in longitude. There is no sign of a northern “polar collar” as is seen in the south, but a number of discrete features seen at the “expected” latitudes may signal its early stages of development. The largest cloud features on Uranus show complex structure extending over tens of degrees. On 4 July 2004, we detected a southern hemispheric cloud feature on Uranus at K', the first detection of a southern feature at or longward of 2 microns. H images showed an extended structure whose condensed core was co-located with the K’-bright feature. The core exhibited marked brightness variation, fading within just a few days. The initial brightness at K’ indicates that the core’s scattering particles reached altitudes above the 1-bar level, with the extended H feature residing below 1.1 bars. The core’s rapid disappearance at K’ indicates dynamical processes in the local vertical aerosol structure. HBH acknowledges support from NASA grants NAG5-11961 and NAG5-10451. IdP acknowledges support from NSF and the Technology Center for Adaptive Optics, managed by UCSC under cooperative agreement No. AST-9876783. SGG’s work was performed under the auspices of the U.S. DoE National Nuclear Security Administration by the UC, LLNL under contract No. W-7405-Eng-48.

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