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Letters to Nature
Nature 322, 42 - 43 (03 July 1986); doi:10.1038/322042a0

The rotation period of Uranus

M. D. Desch, J. E. P. Connerney & M. L. Kaiser

Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

The recent fly-by of Uranus by the Voyager 2 spacecraft provided a singular opportunity to measure one of the fundamental but poorly known physical properties of the planet, its intrinsic rotation period. Earth-based photometric and spectroscopic estimates of the ‘atmospheric’ period vary greatly, with values ranging from ~12 to 24 h (refs 1–4); estimates of the period based on the dynamical flattening of a rotating body range from ~15 to 17 h (refs 5, 6). Here we use the Voyager planetary radioastronomy7 and magnetometer8 observations at Uranus to derive a period of 17.24 ± 0.01 h. The greatly improved precision of this measurement provides useful constraints on models of the planet's internal structure.

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