EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 482, Number 1, April IV 2008
Page(s) 359 - 363
Section Astronomical instrumentation
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20077705
Published online 14 February 2008

A&A 482, 359-363 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20077705

Long-term observations of Uranus and Neptune at 90 GHz with the IRAM 30 m telescope

C. Kramer1, 2, R. Moreno3, 2, and A. Greve4

1  I. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Strasse 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
    e-mail: kramer@ph1.uni-koeln.de
2  IRAM, Nucleo Central, Avda. Divina Pastora 7, 18012 Granada, Spain
3  LESIA (LAM - bât. 18), 5 Place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
4  IRAM, 300 Rue de la Piscine, Domaine Universitaire, 38406 St. Martin d`Hères, France

(Received 24 April 2007 / Accepted 23 January 2008)

Context. The planets Uranus and Neptune with small apparent diameters are primary calibration standards.
Aims. We investigate their variability at ~90 GHz using archived data taken with the IRAM 30 m telescope during the 20 year period 1985 to 2005.
Methods. We calibrate the planetary observations against non-variable secondary standards (NGC 7027, NGC 7538, W3OH, K3-50A) observed almost simultaneously.
Results. Between 1985 and 2005, the viewing angle of Uranus changed from south-pole to equatorial. We find that the disk brightness temperature declines by almost 10% (~$2\sigma$) over this time span indicating that the south-pole region is significantly brighter than average. Our finding is consistent with recent long-term radio observations at 8.6 GHz. Both data sets show a rapid decrease of the Uranus brightness temperature during 1993, indicating a temporal, planetary scale change. We do not find indications for a variation of Neptune's brightness temperature at the 8% level.
Conclusions. If Uranus is to be used as a calibration source, and if accuracies better than 10% are required, the Uranus sub-earth point latitude needs to be taken into account.

Key words: planets and satellites: individual: Uranus -- planets and satellites: individual: Neptune

© ESO 2008