Astronomers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have detected X-rays from the planet Uranus for the first time.
As part of a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on Tuesday, the researchers used observations of the ice giant in 2002 and 2017 to detect radiation.
After inspection and further analysis, they found that X-rays were clearly detected from the first observation and that possible X-ray flares were discovered 15 years later.
Scientists believe that the sun may be the driving force that causes Uranus to emit X-rays.
Astronomers have previously observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-ray light from the sun.
However, although the authors of the study said they believe that the detected X-rays may also come from “scattering”
They say that, like Saturn, Uranus’s ring itself may produce X-rays and may even produce planetary aurora—a phenomenon that occurs when high-energy particles interact with the atmosphere.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory wrote in a press release: “Uranus is surrounded by charged particles, such as electrons and protons, in its nearby space environment.” “If these energetic particles collide with the ring, they may cause the ring. Glow in X-rays.”
X-rays are emitted in the aurora on Earth, and Jupiter also has aurora, although the X-rays from the aurora on Jupiter come from two sources.
However, nearly identical NASA release notes indicate that researchers are still not sure what caused the aurora on Uranus.
The agency wrote that the abnormal orientation of its spin axis and magnetic field may cause the planet’s aurora to become “extraordinarily complex and changeable.”
Uranus’s axis of rotation is almost parallel to its path around the sun—different from the axis of other planets in the solar system—when Uranus tilts to its side, its magnetic field will be flattened by a different amount.
NASA wrote: “Determining the source of the X-rays emitted by Uranus can help astronomers better understand how more and more exotic objects in space (such as growing black holes and neutron stars) emit X-rays.”
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun in the solar system. It has two sets of rings around the equator. Its diameter is four times that of the earth.
Because Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft that Uranus has ever flown, astronomers rely on telescopes like Chandra to learn more about the icy planet almost entirely composed of hydrogen and helium.