(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers first detected X-rays from Uranus using NASA‘s Chandra X-ray space observatory. The findings could help scientists better understand this mysterious ice planet located on the periphery of the solar system.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and is surrounded by two systems of rings in the equatorial region. This planet, which has a diameter of about four Earth‘s diameters, rotates “lying on its side”, which distinguishes it from all other planets of the solar system.
In the new study, astronomers used Chandra observations of Uranus in 2002 and then again in 2017. Scientists have observed clear signs of X-ray radiation in a recent analysis of the results of these first observations, as well as traces of a possible X-ray flare in the analysis of observations carried out 15 years later. The presented photo is a superimposed X-ray image of Uranus obtained with the Chandra observatory in 2002 (pink color), which was superimposed on an optical image taken with the Chandra observatory. Keck in an independent study conducted in 2004. In the last image, the planet is oriented in about the same orientation as in the observations made in 2002 with the Chandra.
What could be the reason for the glow of Uranus in the X-ray range? Most likely in the sun. Astronomers have observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-rays emitted by the Sun, much like the Earth’s atmosphere scatters the light of our star. Although the authors of the work initially believed that most of the X-ray radiation from Uranus was due to the scattering of solar radiation, the study showed that in fact, at least one other possible factor could contribute to this radiation.
One possibility is that the rings of Uranus can produce X-rays themselves, as is the case with the rings of Saturn. Uranus is surrounded by charged particles such as electrons and protons, which are in the outer space of the planet. If these high-energy particles collide with the rings, they can cause a glow in the X-ray range. Another possibility is that at least some of the observed X-rays may be associated with auroras on Uranus – a phenomenon that has often been observed on this planet before in other bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, the authors explained.
The study is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.
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