Scientists Detect X-Rays Being Emitted From Uranus For The First Time

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Scientists Detect X-Rays Being Emitted From Uranus For The First Time

Scientists have for the first time ever detected X-rays emanating from the planet Uranus. X-rays have been previously detected coming from other planets before, but this is the first time that they have been detected coming from the second most distant planet from Earth in the solar system.

The discovery was made after observations by the Chandra X-ray observatory, which sits upon a satellite travelling around Earth. It was upon inspecting the data (which was actually collected way back in 2002) that the evidence of X-rays was found.

The team inspecting the data was led by astrophysicist William Dunn of University College London.

The fact that Uranus does emit X-rays shouldn't be surprising. Virtually every other body in the solar system emits x-rays in one way or another. What is unclear from the data coming from Uranus is that the team of scientists do not know where they are coming from or what is causing them.

It is possible that the x-rays are being beamed back from the Sun's light hitting Uranus, or that the rings of Uranus are creating hyper-energetic particles that themselves are creating x-rays.

On Earth, ionised particles and x-rays hitting the Earth's atmosphere results in the aurora borealis, known more commonly as the northern lights. This could possibly be occurring on Uranus, and this is why scientists are able to detect them. Due to Uranus having a highly bizarre axis, and unusual magnetic fields, this could be causing atmospheric disturbances the like of which is not seen anywhere else in the solar-system.

As the paper says:

"One of the many factors that makes Uranus an interesting target is the configuration of its magnetosphere. While the rotation and magnetic field axes of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn are all oriented almost perpendicular to the ecliptic plane (and thus the direction of the solar wind), Uranus' rotation axis is nearly parallel to its orbital plane."

It is hoped that the Chandra observatory will now be able to take more in-depth observations of Uranus in order to discover exactly what is causing the x-ray emissions. Other satellites that are thought to be soon exploring Uranus in more detail are the ESA's Athena observer and NASA's Lynx observer.

The research has been published in JGR Space Physics.

[h/t: Science alert]

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Thinking Humanity: Scientists Detect X-Rays Being Emitted From Uranus For The First Time
Scientists Detect X-Rays Being Emitted From Uranus For The First Time
Scientists have for the first time ever detected X-rays emanating from the planet Uranus. X-rays have been previously detected coming from other plane
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