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A New Spin on Saturn's Peculiar Rotation
Posted by Guy Pirro on 3/29/2015 9:11 AM
Tracking the rotation speed of solid planets, like the Earth and Mars, is a relatively simple task -- Just measure the time it takes for a surface feature to roll into view again. But giant gas planets Jupiter and Saturn are more problematic for planetary scientists, as they both lack measurable solid surfaces and are covered by thick layers of clouds, foiling direct visual measurements by space probes. Saturn has presented an even greater challenge to scientists, as different parts of this sweltering ball of hydrogen and helium are known to rotate at different speeds, whereas its rotation axis and magnetic pole are aligned. A new method devised by researchers at Tel Aviv University proposes a new determination of Saturn's rotation period and offers insight into the internal structure of the planet. The researchers also measured the rotation of Jupiter and hope to apply their method to other gaseous planets in the solar system such as Uranus and Neptune.
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