Jakarta, CNN Indonesia –
Astronomers claim to have detected mysterious X-rays coming out of it Uranus. They said a closer study of Uranus was needed to know for sure.
So far there are two possible origins of X-rays from Uranus. The first has to do with X-ray scattering from the Sun or secondly, the rings surrounding Uranus produce their own radiation through an unknown process.
Launch Live Science, Uranus is a cold, windy planet made almost entirely of ice and gas. Despite its enormous size, with a diameter about four times that of Earth, Uranus is difficult to study in depth.
Only one spacecraft named Voyager 2 made by NASA has ever made a dangerous trip to get close to the planet. But in the end scientists still rely on telescope observations to study Uranus.
In a new study published in the journal JGR Space Physics, astronomers examined the archive of Uranus observations taken by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, an orbiting telescope that scans the universe for sources of X-ray radiation.
According to NASAX-rays are emitted when matter is heated to millions of degrees, such as when a star explodes or when matter rotates around the edge of a black hole at speeds approaching light.
Until now, X-ray emissions have been detected from every planet in the solar system, except Uranus and Neptune. In most cases, these emissions occur when X-rays made by the sun hit atoms in the planet’s atmosphere, scattering light back into space.
Launching NASA, the researchers looked at Chandra data taken from Uranus in 2002 and 2017, and saw clear evidence of X-ray emissions in both years. Some of these emissions are of a brightness consistent with the sun’s X-rays scattered back out.
However, in the 2017 observations the team detected a possible X-ray ‘flare’, in which the brightness of emissions around Uranus quadrupled from one day to the next. According to the researchers, “this may be indicative of additional X-ray emission processes on Uranus,” other than just solar scattering.
So, what mysterious phenomenon can produce X-rays from Uranus? One possibility lies in the planet’s rings. According to the researchers, the environment around Uranus is rich in charged particles such as protons and electrons.
These particles can collide with the planet’s rings, producing X-rays in the process. A similar phenomenon has been observed in Saturn’s rings.
It’s also possible that the X-rays are the result of some sort of auroral process, in which charged particles from the sun collide with Uranus’ magnetic field lines and cause a distinct glow.
However, further observations are needed to refine this hypothesis. For now, Uranus’s X-rays are still a mystery.
(pjs / ugly)