Auroras occur on the icy planet of Uranus

Sunday, May 27, 2012 0 comments

The recent images taken by the Hubble space telescope has featured auroras on the icy planet of Uranus.
Uranus is the seventh planet revolving around the sun in our solar system. Named after the greek titan god of sky, this is the fourth largest planet in our solar system. 
The Hubble has spotted the appearance of auroras in the planet.  It is a rare phenomenon for a planet like Uranus to have auroras.
Even though those auroras are not similiar to those seen on the earth, they consist of faint glowing dots that lasts only for a minute and are fainter than those on earth.
Auroras are produced in the atmosphere as charged solar wind particles accelerate in the magnetosphere and are guided by the magnetic field close to the magnetic poles.
It also appears on the planets of Jupiter and Saturn like Earth, but since we know very less about the magnetosphere of the planet Uranus it is an unclear phenomenon.
A similiar one was detected 25 years ago by voyager 2 while flying by Uranus but the Hubble image looks different.
Uranus, unlike the other planets in that it it lies on its side, relative to the sun. Its magnetic axis is both offset from the center of the planet and tilts at an angle of 60 degrees from the rotational axis. Scientists theorize that the planet's magnetic field is generated by a salty ocean within the planet.

When Voyager 2 made its flyby, Uranus was near its solstice, with its rotational axis pointed toward the sun. That meant the magnetic axis was at a large angle from the solar wind flow, producing a magnetosphere similar to the Earth's.

Under those 1986 solstice conditions, the auroras lasted longer than the newly-seen ones and were mainly seen on the nightside of the planet.

The new set of observations, however, were made when the planet was near equinox, with the axis almost perpendicular to the solar wind flow. Because the planet's magnetic axis is tilted, the daily rotation of Uranus during the period around the equinox causes each of its magnetic poles to point once a day toward the sun.It is a unique configuration in the entire solar system.
Our scientists are in the process of studying the magnetosphere of Uranus inorder to get a better understanding of earth's magnetosphere.


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