Uranus in X-rays

Uranus in X-rays
Uranus in X-rays
Uranus, the seventh tenant of the solar system, emits X-ray. To find out was the mighty eye of Chandra, the space observatory of NASA, which for the first time recorded these particular emissions coming from the giant icy world at the edge of our planetary system. Four times the diameter of the Earth, Uranus hides many mysteries, starting with the unusual orientation of its axis of rotation. This feature is linked to Uranus’ particularly inclined magnetic field – a phenomenon also shared by its neighbor Neptune, as shown by a recent study conducted by theEth from Zurich.

The only one to have observed these two planets closely was the probe Voyager 2, and today scientists mostly rely on data from space telescopes such as Hubble e Chandra. The latter collected valuable information about Uranus in the 2002, and then again in the 2017. Combining these observations, a research team led by UCL London has now managed to isolate a clear X-ray emission around Uranus. Where does this unusual energy source come from? The most immediate answer is: from Sole. Astronomers have already observed, for example, that Jupiter e Saturn they disperse the X-rays emitted by our star. The same happens also on our planet, and it is precisely this phenomenon that dyes the sky blue during the day.

But that is not all. Chandra’s data suggests that in addition to the X-rays from solar scattering there is another source of emissions: X-rays produced directly from Uranus. One of the hypotheses advanced by the authors of the study is that those responsible for these ‘internal’ emissions are the rings of the planet, surrounded by highly energetic particles whose collision could precisely cause the production of X-rays. New data will be needed to fully understand the phenomenon, and to reveal this further mystery that makes the seventh planet of our solar system even more fascinating.

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