April 14, 2021

Politics & News

Politics and Commentary News Aggregator

X-rays out of Uranus make the ice planet look like an ’80s album cover

3 min read

Far from the Sun, near the outer limits of our solar system, the ice giant Uranus slowly orbits its distant parent star. For the first time, astronomers have seen X-rays emanating from this distant world.

The Chandra X-ray observatory, launched in 1999, examines the Universe in X-rays, highly-energetic wavelengths of electromagnetic energy most commonly associated with diagnosing broken bones.

“NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes. Because X-rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, Chandra must orbit above it, up to an altitude of 139,000 km (86,500 mi) in space,” NASA describes.

A new study of observations shows this world — literally — in a new light.

Seeing through the X-ray mystery

X-rays have been seen before, radiating from the gas giants of the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn. On those worlds, most X-ray emissions are the result of scattering of X-ray radiation from the Sun, while a percentage are generated in aurorae — similar to northern and southern lights.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/University College London/W. Dunn et al; Optical: W.M. Keck Observatory