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X Rays Coming From Uranus

The astronomers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, detected X-rays coming from Uranus, revealing a previously unknown dimension of this majestic ice giant. The new finding, published in JGR: Physics. The new paper was led by astronomer William Dunn from University College London.

This means that X-ray emissions are detected on every planet in the solar system except Neptune. The discovery could yield new insights into more distant X-ray-emitting objects, including black holes, supernovae, quasars, and neutron stars. It is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.

The planet Uranus exhibits two sets of rings, both in orbit above its equator. The planet is somewhat of an oddball, as it rotates on its side relative to the plane of the solar system.NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft visited in 1986, so aside from that, astronomers have been depending on telescopes, such as Chandra and Hubble, to study the seventh planet from the Sun.

Dunn, along with physicist Affelia Wibisono, a Ph.D. student at UCL and a co-author of the study, found the evidence of  X-ray emissions in Chandra data gathered in 2002 and 2017. The data from 2002 was gathered by the Chandra Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer, while the 2017 data came from Chandra’s High-Resolution Camera, in addition to optical observations. The observed signals are very weak. With X-rays confirmed on , the challenge now is to determine the cause. There are three main ways that a planet can produce X-rays: fluorescence, scattering of solar X-rays, and auroral emissions.

Uranus is scattering X-rays received by the Sun. This doesn’t appear to be the exclusive source of X-rays on Uranus. The astronomers calculate that  was producing more X-rays than it should if the planet was only scattering the Sun’s X-rays

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