The Chandra X-ray Space Observatory has shown Uranus, literally, “in a new light.” For the first time, scientists are able to detect X-rays emanating from the mysterious Ice Planet.
The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on Wednesday, focused on two images of the Chandra Observatory planet in 2002 and 2017. The first shows clear X-rays, and the second shows a possible burst of X-rays on the ice giant, a planet made up mostly of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.
The NASA website notes:
What could have caused Uranus to emit X-rays? Answer: mostly the Sun. Astronomers have noticed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-rays emitted by the Sun, much like the Earth’s atmosphere scatters the Sun’s light. Although the authors of the new study on Uranus initially expected that most of the detected X-rays would also be due to scattering, there are very interesting hints that at least one other source of X-rays is present. If further observations confirm this, then the implications for understanding Uranus will be extremely intriguing. “
The Chandra Observatory was launched by NASA’s US Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1999 using the Columbia shuttle.