Sparks and Scute: Features of the orbit of Uranus

Posted: January 25, 2014 by tallbloke in Astronomy, Solar physics, solar system dynamics

A couple of interesting obs have popped up in suggestions, so here’s a thread to pitch them to. I’ll just post Sparks interesting plots from last year and let them have at it. I’m working wit Stuart ‘Oldbrew’ on other orbits today here at Tallbloke Towers.




These images are large. Click to get the full size and scroll across them to view details

Sparks says:
January 25, 2014 at 3:03 am (Edit)

Rog, I’ve made an interesting observation about the unusual orbit of Uranus in regard to the polar orientation observation, When either of the Geo-magnetic poles of Uranus are facing the sun. This occurrence always falls in the distance midway between its nearest and furthest point from the sun.

For instance, Uranus’s furthest point from the sun is approximately 20.07 AU and Uranus’s nearest point from the sun is approximately 18.31 AU during its orbit (Which is also when Uranus’s equator faces the sun). Approximately midway between the nearest and furthest point Uranus’s poles are directly facing the sun, at approximately 19.13 AU. it varies slightly between 19.5 AU and 19.20 AU.

I used an astronomical model based on ephemerides DE 102, verification of the observation would be great.

Best regards.

Scute says:
January 25, 2014 at 11:21 am (Edit)


You’re right. What you’ve discovered is the reason I ended up at the Talkshop. I found the axis orientation/apsides relationship and Googled “spin orbit” so naturally ended up here!

I have established the relationship to be within about 1.5 degrees looking at the ephemerides. I might have an old draft comment somewhere which I didn’t post on the Why Phi? Spin thread. That was prompted by one of your comments about Uranus on that thread. It didn’t seem quite relevant but I should’ve thrown it out there.

The silly thing is that I was going to liaise with you about it- I was even on your site the other day on the verge of letting you know because you have the knowledge to verify it. I thought I’d postpone a few weeks because I’m still working on the DA14 asteroid/ Chelyabinsk link.

I think this Uranus spin-axis relationship is important. I believe the spin axis is locking in the apsides to its own alignment. If the apsides are precessing they would somehow be dragging the the axis orientation with them. I think it may be the case that they are not even precessing. I can’t find that information, and the precession would be small. If they are not precessing, it would mean the axis lock- in is more powerful or at least acting as a brake as the axis orientation is reluctantly turned with the apsides against its gyroscopic stable state- hence a 1.5 degree drag. We only have two Uranus orbits’ worth of ephemerides and the early part is dodgy so I don’t think they have discerned any precession rate in the apsides.

If apside/axis lock is happening, it’s almost certainly due to the 97 degree axis orientation (poles head-on at apsides). However, my theory for how this might happen would be regarded as highly unconventional. That’s why I’ve never posted it here. Except I can’t fault it through application of plain orbital dynamics theory. I would be tentative about voicing it except in private, to you or Tallbloke, especially after the Copernicus debacle.

The residuals in the Uranus ephemerides have always been inexplicably large (l’m referring to the time after Neptune explained the big residuals). This has never been explained satisfactorily without invoking a small Planet X but the calculations show that purported planet to be in very well-scanned portions of the sky. I went to the ephemerides to see if the residuals are at the apsides, and following a sine wave. A 1992 paper established that they did conform to a sine wave with a best fit 50 year cycle- and 42 years, half an orbit wasn’t out of the question, especially in the last century. The observations have more scatter in the 19th C and upset the curve fit a little. If my theory was correct, you would see this forward and aft drift in Uranus’ orbit at the apsides and equinoxes. It’s to the tune of half an arcsecond in the residuals, or a large fraction of the planets diameter.

I can send you the residuals sine wave paper later but I have to dig it out and I’m a bit pushed for time right now.

Scute says:
January 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm (Edit)


Here is the paper I mentioned above. It’s 1988 not 1992.…203..170G&db_key=AST&page_ind=0&plate_select=NO&data_type=GIF&type=SCREEN_GIF&classic=YES

The graph is on the fourth page (p 173 of the journal). It’s in Julian dates so difficult to see where the peaks and troughs lie in relation to Uranus’ apsides. I looked at this several years ago and converted to normal dates. I remember that even the 50.5 year curve was centred nearly on the 1900 perihelion. If phase shifted 3 years, it was about 4 years from both the 1860 aphelion and 1900 perihelion. A 42 year curve would fit much better and isn’t out of the question according to the spectral analysis graph next to the sin wave graph. The early 1800′s refuse to fit but the observation scatter was far greater then.

It’s ragged, but if the residuals fit, we have apsides, rotational axis tilt direction and unexplained residuals all occurring at the same point in the orbit to within 1.5 ….or 2.25 degrees:

This NASA fact sheet has the difference at about 2.25 degrees at Uranus’ perihelion. The ascending node plus arg of perihelion add to about 255.25 degrees and the rotational axis tilt is given as 257.43.

I calculated the correlation at the equinoxes which are about 1-2 deg off the minor axis due to the orbit ellipse eccentricty. The apsides are right on the major axis. I think perhaps the 2.25 deg apside discrepancy is therefore more correct. I’m talking about effects happening at the major and minor axes where the rotational axis is head-on and side on to the centre of the ellipse, not where it is side on to the focus (at equinox). Or at least that’s the neat, geometrical version- it could be that this tension between the sun’s gravity vector direction at equinox and not quite at the minor axis actually explains why there is a circa 2 degree discrepancy at all. If the orbit was circular, there would be no such tension and the axis apside match would perhaps be perfect.


  1. It takes more censure’s.
    There is a new energy (regeneration
    challenge) on tallbloke.

  2. Sparks says:

    Is there an interaction between the planet Uranus and the sun?

  3. Three question…

    In the “uranus-solar-2.gif” equator – 2009
    In the “uranus-n-s-poles-equator-sunspot_area.gif” equator – 2003
    Which is correct ?

    The figure “ssn-1600-2012-uranus.gif” is low resolution.
    Rog, can you post high resolution graphic ?

    [Reply] Sorry, I don’t have one.

  4. Scute says:

    Bretagon Uranus paper

    Try this

  5. Sparks says:

    Michele Casati

    In the “uranus-solar-2.gif” equator – 2009
    In the “uranus-n-s-poles-equator-sunspot_area.gif” equator – 2003
    Which is correct ?

    They are low resolution graphs of the polar orientation of Uranus. The high resolution graph can be found here:

    They are based on ephemerides DE 102.

  6. tallbloke says:

    Sparks: “Is there an interaction between the planet Uranus and the sun?”

    If R.J. Salvador’s model is related to physical mechanisms then it seems likely.

  7. Sparks says:

    There are relativistic issues that fall in favor of a planetary interaction with the sun, recognising those patterns and translating them into a mechanism is the challenge.

    Roll your sleeves up, It’s game on!

  8. tallbloke says:

    Sparks: Looking forward to you expanding on your line of thinking. Stuart and I are looking into energy transfer via resonance. There is a large literature to go at.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    So what about the 41,000 y and 100,000 y cycles? Clearly present in Vostok and LR04, what are the orbital parameters that made Milankovitch?

  10. tallbloke says:

    Hi Euarn,
    The 100kyr cycle is in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit.
    The 41kyr is in the obliquity of Earth’s axial tilt.

    Eccentricity changes are effected by resonance with other planetary orbits.
    The shape of the Earth’s orbit varies in time between nearly circular (low eccentricity of 0.005) and mildly elliptical (high eccentricity of 0.058) The major component of these variations occurs on a period of 413,000 years (eccentricity variation of ±0.012). A number of other terms vary between components 95,000 and 125,000 years (with a beat period 400,000 years), and loosely combine into a 100,000-year cycle (variation of −0.03 to +0.02). The present eccentricity is 0.017. The Earth’s eccentricity varies primarily due to interactions with the gravitational fields of Jupiter and Saturn.

    Earth’s slow 2.4° obliquity variations are roughly periodic, taking approximately 41,000 years to shift between a tilt of 22.1° and 24.5° and back again. When the obliquity increases, the amplitude of the seasonal cycle in insolation increases, with summers in both hemispheres receiving more radiative flux from the Sun, and winters less. Conversely, when the obliquity decreases, summers receive less insolation and winters more.

    But these changes of opposite sign in summer and winter are not of the same magnitude everywhere on the Earth’s surface. At high latitude the annual mean insolation increases with increasing obliquity, while lower latitudes experience a reduction in insolation. Cooler summers are suspected of encouraging the onset of an ice age by melting less of the previous winter’s precipitation.

    Info from Wiki,which is silent on the cause of Axial Tilt variation cycles.

  11. tchannon says:

    As Rog points out this is far from simple or even I suspect clearly known.

    I seem to recall some unexpected variation vs. latitude, quite complicated but all we have are simulations. A reference place is the Paris obs.,, dig here

  12. pochas says:

    Stupid question: If the ephemerides are calculated on Newton’s law and omit consideration of spin/orbit coupling, and spin/orbit coupling actually exists (shown by the recession of the lunar orbit), then can the ephemerides be relies on? This bears on discrepancies between orbital calculations and climate proxies.
    I would guess that magnetic coupling is left out as well.

  13. tallbloke says:

    Hi Pochas: The Horizons online ephemieris supplied by JPL is calculated in accordance with this document. Enjoy.

    The spin-orbit coupling causing the Moon to recede is pretty slow in its action. The timespan covered by the ephemeris is 6000 years. I’m not sure whether or not a term is included, have a dig around in the document.

    The energy transferred between planets and other smaller bodies by resonant interactions acts to stabilise the system and keep it ticking along in tune. See the 1:2:4 interaction of the Galilean moons.

  14. pochas says:

    tallbloke says:
    January 26, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    “The energy transferred between planets and other smaller bodies by resonant interactions acts to stabilise the system and keep it ticking along in tune.”

    Can a system stay in resonance and still dissipate energy?

  15. tallbloke says:

    Pochas: I believe so. We find many resonant interactions where the bodies are near to, but not in simple ratio, but one side of the ratio they are in differs by unity from a simple harmonic ratio. e.g. Jupiter and Saturn’s orbital ratio is 60:149. 60:150 = 2:5 the amount of power in a resonance drops off as you move away from its exact ratio, but the bodies are trying to get back into that ratio. So energy transfer pushes the orbits apart, but the tendency towards lognormal distribution (Fibonacci, harmonic ratios) pushes them back together. A balance point is reached. In this way, ‘just the right amount’ of energy is being transferred to keep the relationship stable.

    Willis Eschenbach thinks this is all “numerology”. He probably ought to start here before graduatuing to the large resonance related literature in the astrophysics journals:

  16. R J Salvador says:

    Since this is one blog where you can propose something without being called a moron, I will speculate that it’s possible that the sun could operate like the rotating magnetic field in an electric motor through the oscillating Parker spiral. Now this force is small on the Jovian planets magnetic fields but it is continuous and it is sustained. A small force applied over and over for multiple millennia could compensate for any energy loss through the gravitational spin orbital coupling mechanism and tidal torque that possibly initiates the solar sunspot cycle. These two resonating processes could be in balance.

  17. Sparks says:

    R J Salvador says:
    January 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I’ve had a similar line of thought, tho speculative I believe it should be explored fully before ruling out all of the so-called coincidental relationships and patterns between the sun and planetary orbits.

    I generally like to think of sun as having a hypothetical rotating inner mass as its core and a lesser mass as its coronasphere, the inner mass always rotates East to west as well as north to south, when the suns core is rotating east to west, during solar minimum it begins to buildup a positive (+) or negative (-) charge on the coronasphere on either of the northern or southern hemispheres as the inner mass moves towards the equator the positive (+) and negative (-) charges begin interacting and discharging producing sunspots.

    The interesting relationship between the configuration and timing of the planets appear to coincide with the movement, orientation and timing of moving solar Poles. It is the only process that I’m satisfied can explain Maunder minimum type events including ice ages, where if the changes in planetary orbits at times become settled enough that they do not influence the sun, thus the poles do not continue to flip regularly where they remain fixed at either hemisphere.

    The major question I have and would like answers for is; We know that changes in Earths orbit can effect its climate, this is a known fact, are these orbital changes when they occur also linked to periods when the suns magnetic poles remain fixed when few or no sunspots are produced on the suns coronasphere?

    It could be the case ‘Hypothetically’ that having no sunspots on the sun could be an indicator of major orbital changes taken place throughout the solar system. Ice ages on Earth could therefor be a mixture of both over prolonged period.

    Current Solar theory suggests that the buildup of the positive (+) and negative (-) charges on the coronasphere begin interacting in random intervals with random intensity, which is enough to cause a complete flip of the suns polar magnetic fields, without a mechanical process. I find this very odd and unsatisfactory as it stands.

    As a second generation electrical engineer who has grown up with access to all kinds of complex measuring equipment and an in-depth knowledge of magnetic fields and electrics, I believe that the current theory is incomplete. (fwiw I’m also qualified in higher level mathematics, computer maintenance & networks, I also have a working knowledge of several programing languages and possess a C&G in Horticulture, I’ve also been studying astronomy and physics in my own time now for about 20 years, which I hope to become qualified in at some point in the future).

  18. oldbrew says:

    Anyone care to comment on this?

    ‘Uranus has an axial tilt of 97.77°, so its axis of rotation is approximately parallel with the plane of the Solar System.’

    ‘One result of this axis orientation is that, averaged over the year, the polar regions of Uranus receive a greater energy input from the Sun than its equatorial regions. Nevertheless, Uranus is hotter at its equator than at its poles. The underlying mechanism that causes this is unknown.’

  19. tallbloke says:

    While one pole gets hot, the other will get very cold. Except for a short period when the poles are in line with the sun, Some sunlight will be getting to the far side of the equator. Need to model the insolation to get a proper idea.

  20. R J Salvador says:

    Sparks says:
    January 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Sparks, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It seems like you have the tools for the job. I look forward to reading about to your future discoveries and progress on this intriguing pattern.


  21. Sparks says:


    I put together an animation Uranus’s unusual 97.77° axial tilt, it also shows the direction its poles.

    I’ve especially produced this new graph representing Uranus’s polar orientation, the new colour code makes the poles stand out more clearly.

  22. Sparks says:


    I’ve been looking into relativistic phase shifts during aphelion and perihelion of Uranus’s orbit where the planet begins slowing down and speeding up at (toward and away from) opposing apsides.

    As a simple exercise I began with straightforward values of the resonance between Jupiter and Uranus’s orbital distance, then I separated aphelion from perihelion and this resulted in an identical trend to sunspot activity.

    Also, If you look at Uranus’s axis orientation closely you will notice when Its North Pole is directly facing the sun, it will take approximately 22 years for its South pole to spin around to face the sun and vice-verse. This always (as far as we know) encapsulates two solar cycles between 0 degrees and 90 degrees north or south of its axial spin, when we factor in Jupiter’s aphelion and perihelion and the influence it has, there is always a solar minimum approximately between Uranus’s polar north south orientation at 0 degrees, which is approximately when the equator is facing the sun.

    that is until Uranus’s orbit is changed by Neptune. During these perturbation events Uranus becomes out of phase for a period of time depending on how much its orbit changes, Its very interesting that it always self corrects itself in relation to the sun.

    ‘Hypothetically’ if we removed Jupiter Would the 11 year solar cycle become a slower 22 year solar cycle, with possibly less sunspot activity on the coronasphere?

  23. Scute says:

    Sparks, you said:

    “As a simple exercise I began with straightforward values of the resonance between Jupiter and Uranus’s orbital distance, then I separated aphelion from perihelion and this resulted in an identical trend to sunspot activity”

    I didn’t quite understand this. I’m not sure because resonances usually or often refer to synodic periods etc but the graph seems to show a continuous value of the sum of Uranus and Jupiter which looks intriguing but I’m not sure how it’s done. Also, what do you mean by separating aphelion from perihelion? And the units on the graph too. I just need a more detailed explanation I think. It does sound interesting. I remember you mentioning a 22 year link a long time ago on another thread and I thought, yes, there’s smoke thing something in that.



  24. oldbrew says:

    Hi Sparks,

    As I suspected Miles Mathis has things to say about Uranus. Re the poles and the sun:

    ‘Like all other spinning bodies, Uranus emits more photons near the equator. We can even pause here to show that this is why Uranus is warmer there than at the poles. Current physicists expect the near pole to be warmer, since it is closer to the Sun, but that would not be the expectation of anyone who accepts my theory. At that distance from the Sun, there is very little warming or warmth differential from near pole to far pole. Both are extremely cold. The greater warmth differential is going to come from within, caused by the recycling of the charge field. Since more photons are emitted at the equator, it is warmer there.’

    In another paper he argues (with figures in support) that the Uranus tilt is closely related to the fact that it has larger bodies each side of it, i.e. Neptune and Saturn.

  25. dscott says:

    Since the changes in the Moon’s orbital declination influences the course of the jet stream in the NH which in turn changes the NH climate (like the polar vortex, draughts, floods and hurricane tracks), what would be the effect on the Moon’s orbital inclination as the Earth’s obliquity decreases to 22.1 degrees from 24.5 degrees?

    Ice Ages are not fully in sinc. with the obliquity cycle, would the effect of Earth’s change in obliquity modulate the Moon’s declination in some way which would enhance the jet stream’s effects on weather?

  26. tallbloke says:

    D Scott: good question. The Moon compromises between trying to orbit Earth’s equator and the plane the planets lie near. So a change in obliquity will alter its orbit slightly, though only by degree or two.

  27. tallbloke says:

    OB: Saturn also has large bodies either side of it, and also has a fairly large obliquity IIRC.

    Uranus’ poles are alternately near and far from the Sun as it orbits.

  28. Scute says:

    dscott and Tallbloke.

    “Ice Ages are not fully in sinc. with the obliquity cycle, would the effect of Earth’s change in obliquity modulate the Moon’s declination in some way which would enhance the jet stream’s effects on weather?”


    “The Moon compromises between trying to orbit Earth’s equator and the plane the planets lie near. So a change in obliquity will alter its orbit slightly, though only by degree or two.”

    Doesn’t a change of one degree have implications for Clive Best’s mega tide theory? I seem to remember he was talking only of orbital radius, not the effective inclination to the Earth’s equator and consequent enhanced effect of tides on the poles.

  29. oldbrew says:

    TB: Mathis has a diagram to explain his thinking on the Uranus tilt (link above). It involves the angle of tilt of Saturn and Neptune being very similar.

    He argues that Saturn is a different case because one of its two neighbours i.e. Uranus is smaller than it is.