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Current Affairs

Colour difference in Neptune and Uranus

Date: 03 June 2022 Tags: Geography & Environment

Issue

Astronomers have found an explanation for why the Neptune and Uranus planets are different colours.

 

Background

Neptune and Uranus have similar masses, sizes, and atmospheric compositions but their colour varies.

 

Details

  • Neptune is a rich, deep azure hue, while Uranus is a distinctly pale shade of cyan at visible wavelengths.

  • Till now, there was no similar data available for comparison, which prevented explanation for the phenomenon.

 

The new study

  • For the latest study, a single atmospheric model was developed that matched observations of both planets.

  • Observations were made from NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Gemini North telescope and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. 

  • The most important observation made during the study was that the haze around Uranus is thicker than that around Neptune.

 

Appearance

  • The stagnant and sluggish atmosphere of Uranus makes it appear a lighter tone than Neptune. 

  • Neptune and Uranus would have appeared equally blue if there was no haze in the atmospheres of the planets due to scattering of blue light.

 

Theory

  • There are three different aerosol layers in the atmospheres of Neptune and Uranus. The middle layer affects the colours.

  • The middle layer of haze particles is thicker on Uranus than on Neptune. The particles on this layer are made up of condensed methane ice.

  • Since Neptune’s atmosphere is more turbulent than Uranus’, it churns out more methane particles into the haze layer.

  • Due to this process, more haze is removed from the atmosphere, keeping Neptune’s haze layer thinner than it is on Uranus. Due to this Neptune looks darker.