Is Uranus flaring out X-rays?3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Every new discovery renders Uranus stranger, and more wondrous. And adding to this list, astronomers have discovered X-rays coming out of Uranus for the first time.
The wonder of Uranus
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun. Its distance from the sun makes it an extremely cold planet. It is cold and windy, and made entirely of gas and ice. It is four times the size of Earth! It is called the ‘sideways’ planet as its axis is tilted. Uranus’ rings are very dark and almost invisible against the blackness of space.
In a new study, astronomers studied some observations taken from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory from 2002 and 2017. Chandra is an orbiting telescope that moves around the universe trying to find x-ray radiations. Uranus has remained largely unexplored with only NASA’s Voyager 2 bringing back information on the planet. Therefore, the new study is the beginning of a breakthrough!
How is this happening?
X-rays in space
X-rays are emitted when matter is heated to a million degrees (that’s when stars explode or when matter moves close to the black hole at the speed of light). Almost all planets of the solar system give out x-ray emissions. These emissions occur when the x-rays coming out of the sun crash into the atoms of a planet’s atmosphere. This returns light back into space.
Scientists noted that the brightness of the rays coming out of Uranus increased four times from one day in 2017 to the next. This allowed the researchers to state that there could be additional x-rays beyond the sun coming out of Uranus itself!
There are two possible reasons for this:
- The environment around Uranus is richly charged with protons and electrons. These protons and electrons could be colliding into the planet’s rings, producing heat, and therefore, the x-rays.
- Another reason can be attributed back to the sun. The charged particles from the sun could be colliding with Uranus’ magnetic field. This could be causing a glow like the auroral process.
This is what an aurora on earth looks like! It happens when solar winds play with the magnetic field of the atmosphere. It is also called polar lights, northern lights, or southern lights. It is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky in areas oh high latitude. Isn’t it beautiful!
Scientists will continue to study this phenomenon, and Owliver will bring the answer to you when there is one! Till then, look out your window and marvel at the universe we call home.