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Scientists have detected X-rays from Uranus for the first time



Every planet in the solar system has its own characteristics, but Uranus is indeed one of them.

Not only does it tilt to the side, so its axis of rotation is actually parallel to its orbital plane, it smells terrible, it leaks everywhere, its magnetic field is a mess, and its ring is different from any other planetary ring in the solar system.

But wait, there is more. About 20 years ago, astronomers turned their instruments to capture X-ray radiation from Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Unlike every planet before it, Uranus hardly shines.

Now, this is the first time we have detected X-rays from the strangest balls in the solar system, and it is not clear where they come from or what they mean.

Compared with the rest of the solar system, the observation and discovery of Uranus and Neptune are very tricky. The two planets are indeed far apart, and few probes can explore their icy communities.

Usually, we rely on telescopes closer to home to test them-these telescopes are optimized to observe farther than Uranus or Neptune, so the details may be a little blurry at the edges.

This new discovery is based on observations made using the Chandra X-ray Observatory (a space telescope orbiting the Earth). The first set of observations was made in 2002, and then the other two sets were made in 201

7. When a team of astrophysicists led by William Dunn of University College London in the United Kingdom finally bypassed the analysis of 2002 observations, they discovered the light emitted by X-Uranus.

Uranus spotsObserved in 2017. (NASA/CXO/University College London/W. Dunn et al.; WM Keck Observatory)

It is not surprising that Uranus should emit X-rays. X-rays have been detected from many solar system objects, including comets, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Pluto, Jupiter, and even some moons of Jupiter. Considering the difficulties involved in studying distant planets, it is not surprising that we have not discovered them until now.

Strangely, we don’t know how Uranus emits X-rays.

There are some options. Most of the X-radiation in the solar system comes from the sun (obviously), and when the sun hits the clouds of Jupiter and Saturn, it scatters. Although the team’s calculations point to more X-ray photons than the process can explain, it may also happen on Uranus.

Based on other objects in the solar system, we have some clues to understand the potential source of this overdose phenomenon. Saturn’s ring is one such example, which is known to emit fluorescence in X-rays generated by the interaction of high-energy particles with oxygen atoms in the ring.

Although the rings of Uranus are less bright than those of Saturn, studies of radiation belts have found that the high-energy electrons around Uranus are stronger. If they interact with atoms in the ring, they may produce similar X-ray fluorescence.

Aurora is another process that produces X-rays in the solar system. These occur when high-energy particles interact with the planet’s atmosphere. On Earth, this produces breathtaking green dance animations, but as we all know, they also occur on other planets. Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and even comets may have aurora.

In most cases, the magnetic field produces aurora. The particles accelerate along the magnetic field lines before being deposited into the atmosphere.

A similar process may occur on Uranus, producing aurora in the upper atmosphere. If this is the case, because Uranus’s magnetic field is so off-axis, these auroras may be much more complicated than what we observe in the solar system.

Long-term observations of Chandra in the future will help scientists map the location of the entire Uranus X-ray emission, which will help identify the causes of them. However, more detailed observations cannot be made with our current instruments to characterize emission fluctuations.

Upcoming observatories, such as ESA’s Athena or NASA’s Lynx, will be able to better tell us about the severe disaster. This will not only help us better understand the atmosphere and magnetic field of Uranus, but also provide a deeper understanding of the X-ray sources of the entire universe.

The team’s research results have been published in JGR Space Physics.


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