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13 March 2014 11:08 am ,
Vol. 343 ,
In the shadow of the crisis in Crimea, Ukrainian legislators are weighing a pair of science and education bills that...
Researchers dependent on government funding would face a flat future under the White House's $3.9 trillion budget...
Reservoirs of cells that harbor HIV DNA woven into human chromosomes have become the bane of researchers trying to cure...
Geochemists have now incorporated in their models some details of the way naturally acidic rainwater dissolves rock...
Schizophrenia is a devastating mental disorder that afflicts about 1% of the world's population at one time or another...
Surface tension is a force to be reckoned with, especially if you are small. It enables a water strider to skate along...
- 13 March 2014 11:08 am , Vol. 343 , #6176
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ScienceShot: Zipping Around Uranus and Neptune
15 May 2013 5:00 pm
Although billions of kilometers distant, Uranus (left) and Neptune (right) sport something a terrestrial airline pilot would appreciate: souped-up jet streams that can clock in at more than 1000 kilometers an hour. The two worlds are twin planets, with nearly identical sizes, masses, and compositions. Each is an "ice giant" dominated by a large core of ice, rock, and iron inside a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, which methane gas tinges green and blue. Both worlds have east-to-west jet streams at their equators and west-to-east jet streams at high latitudes; the winds ferry material through the atmospheres and thereby subtly affect the planets' gravitational fields. Now, as researchers report online today in Nature, those fields reveal that the jet streams extend no farther than 1100 kilometers beneath the cloud tops—just a fraction of each planet's size, because the equatorial diameters of Uranus and Neptune are respectively 51,118 and 49,528 kilometers. Many stars host worlds this large, so the finding may have implications for adventurous pilots skirting through the friendly skies of alien solar systems.
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