Friday, April 23, 2021

Duuude, Uranus is belching X-rays and is weirder than we ever thought


The more scientists study it, the weirder Uranus gets.

The newest mystery to add to the planet's repertoire? Astronomers have detected X-rays from the strange world — and while some of the signal may be reflected emissions from the sun, some appear to be coming from the planet itself, according to a NASA statement.

A composite image of the planet Uranus shows 2002 X-ray emission in pinkish purple. (Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/University College London/W. Dunn et al; Optical: W.M. Keck Observatory)

Plenty of solar system objects emit X-rays — everything from Venus to Saturn to moons of Jupiter, the scientists write in a paper describing their research. In fact, of the solar system's planets, only little-studied Uranus and Neptune were missing from the list. 

The team of astronomers were particularly drawn to study Uranus in X-rays because the planet's alignments are quite jumbled: the planet lies on its side and the axis of its magnetic field is akimbo from both the orbital plane and the spin axis. The skewed axes may trigger particularly complicated auroras, which can emit X-rays....