Scientists have the answer to why Neptune and Uranus are so different shades of blue, despite being similar in many ways.
Neptune has a distinctly blue color where Uranus is a pale shade of cyan. The two farthest planets from the Sun are similar in mass, size, and atmospheric composition, but Neptune is clearly blueer than its neighbor.
New research led by Patrick Irwin, professor of physics at Oxford University, suggests that a smoky layer on both planets is behind different shades of blue. Without this fog their appearance would be identical, explained the lead author, Mr. Irwin.
Astronomers can now find out why Uranus and Neptune have different colors. Find out if you are interested in understanding it yourself and how you observe it HUBBLE_space Contribute to explaining this difference, see our latest #Spacesparks Episode
– Hubble (UHUBBLE_space) May 31, 2022
Using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Infrared Telescope facility, and the Gemini North Telescope, researchers have developed a model for describing aerosol layers in the atmosphere of both planets. According to a press release, the model revealed that the extra fog at Uranus is created in the stagnant, lazy atmosphere of the planet, which makes it sound lighter than Neptune.
“This is the first model to simultaneously fit observations of sunlight reflecting ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths. It is also the first to explain the visible color difference between Uranus and Neptune,” Mr. Irwin explained.
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Further, according to the press note, the researchers explained that the model involved three haze layers at different heights. In Uranus, the middle layer of fog is thicker than Neptune, which affects the visible color.
Scientists have explained that in Uranus, methane ice condenses on particles in the middle layer of the fog, forming a methane snow shower that drags the fog particles deeper into the atmosphere. Once there, fog particles can promote the condensation of hydrogen sulfide ice, creating a separate, deeper layer of fog.
Neptune’s atmosphere, on the other hand, is more active and turbulent than Uranus’, suggesting that it is more efficient at producing snow that removes more fog and keeps the middle layer of Neptune thinner.
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Therefore, scientists say that Neptune appears blue, when the extra fog of Uranus is created in a slower atmosphere and creates a lighter shadow.