Thermal Spectrum of Uranus: Implications for Large Helium Abundance

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Science  21 Feb 1986:
Vol. 231, Issue 4740, pp. 836-840
DOI: 10.1126/science.231.4740.836


An analysis of the infrared spectrum of Uranus' disk between 7 micrometers and 3 millimeters suggests a volume mixing ratio for helium in the atmosphere of 40 ± 20 percent, more than for the sun, Jupiter, or Saturn. Alternative explanations require even more extreme assumptions regarding gas abundances or aerosol vertical distribution and spectral properties. The most serious difficulty with a model containing large amounts of helium is devising a credible evolutionary or chemical model explaining the absence or segregation of so much hydrogen.