Publications by Patrick Irwin


HST/WFC3 Observations of Uranus’ 2014 storm clouds and comparison with VLT/SINFONI and IRTF/SpeX observations

Icarus Elsevier 288 (2017) 99–119-

P Irwin, MH Wong, A Simon, GS Orton, D Toledo

<p>In November 2014 Uranus was observed with the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument of the Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Hubble 2020: Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program, OPAL. OPAL annually maps Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune (and will also map Saturn from 2018) in several visible/near-infrared wavelength filters. The Uranus 2014 OPAL observations were made on the 8/9th November at a time when a huge cloud complex, first observed by de Pater et al. (2015) and subsequently tracked by professional and amateur astronomers (Sayanagi et al., 2016), was present at 30–40°N. We imaged the entire visible atmosphere, including the storm system, in seven filters spanning 467–924 nm, capturing variations in the coloration of Uranus’ clouds and also vertical distribution due to wavelength dependent changes in Rayleigh scattering and methane absorption optical depth. Here we analyse these new HST observations with the NEMESIS radiative-transfer and retrieval code in multiple-scattering mode to determine the vertical cloud structure in and around the storm cloud system.</p> <p>The same storm system was also observed in the H-band (1.4–1.8 μm) with the SINFONI Integral Field Unit Spectrometer on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) on 31st October and 11th November, reported by Irwin et al. (2016, 10.1016/j.icarus.2015.09.010). To constrain better the cloud particle sizes and scattering properties over a wide wavelength range we also conducted a limb-darkening analysis of the background cloud structure in the 30–40°N latitude band by simultaneously fitting: a) these HST/OPAL observations at a range of zenith angles; b) the VLT/SINFONI observations at a range of zenith angles; and c) IRTF/SpeX observations of this latitude band made in 2009 at a single zenith angle of 23°, spanning the wavelength range 0.8–1.8 µm (Irwin et al., 2015, 10.1016/j.icarus.2014.12.020).</p> <p>We find that the HST observations, and the combined HST/VLT/IRTF observations at all locations are well modelled with a three-component cloud comprised of: 1) a vertically thin, but optically thick ‘deep’ tropospheric cloud at a pressure of ∼ 2 bars; 2) a methane-ice cloud based at the methane-condensation level of 1.23 bar, with variable vertical extent; and 3) a vertically extended tropospheric haze, also based at the methane-condensation level of ∼ 1.23 bar. We find that modelling both haze and tropospheric cloud with particles having an effective radius of ∼ 0.1 µm provides a good fit the observations, although for the tropospheric cloud, particles with an effective radius as large as 1.0 µm provide a similarly good fit. We find that the particles in both the tropospheric cloud and haze are more scattering at short wavelengths, giving them a blue colour, but are more absorbing at longer wavelengths, especially for the tropospheric haze. We find that the spectra of the storm clouds are well modelled by localised thickening and vertical extension of the methane-ice cloud. For the particles in the storm clouds, which we assume to be composed of methane ice particles, we find that their mean radii must lie somewhere in the range View the MathML sourcem. We find that the high clouds have low integrated opacity, and that “streamers” reminiscent of convective thunderstorm anvils are confined to levels deeper than 1 bar. These results argue against vigorous moist convective origins for the cloud features.</p>


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