Astronomers at NASA’s X-ray observatory Chandra have detected X-rays from the planet Uranus for the first time.
Researchers used observations of the ice giant taken in 2002 and 2017 to detect the radiation as part of a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
In a study and with further analysis, they saw clear detection of X-rays from the first observation and possible glare of X-rays from these 15 years later.
Scientists believe that the sun may be the driving force that causes Uranus to emit X-rays.
Astronomers have previously observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-rays from the sun.
But while the study̵
Like Saturn, they say that Uranus’ rings could produce the X-rays themselves or even the aurora of the planet – a phenomenon created when high-energy particles interact with the atmosphere.
“Uranus is surrounded by charged particles such as electrons and protons in its nearby space environment,” Chandra X-ray Observatory wrote in a release. “If these energetic particles collide with the rings, they can cause the rings to glow in X-rays.”
X-rays are emitted in the Earth’s Northern Lights, and Jupiter also has the Northern Lights, although X-rays from the Northern Lights on Jupiter come from two sources.
However, an almost identical NASA release notes that scientists remain unsure of what is causing the aurors on Uranus.
The agency wrote that the unusual orientations of its spin axis and magnetic field could cause the planet’s northern lights to become “unusually complex and variable.”
Uranus’ axis of rotation is almost parallel to its path around the sun – unlike the axes of other planets in the solar system – and while Uranus is tilted to the side, its magnetic field is tiled with a different amount.
“Determining the sources of X-rays from Uranus can help astronomers better understand how more exotic objects in space, such as growing black holes and neutron stars, emit X-rays,” NASA wrote.
Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun in the solar system. It has two sets of rings around its equator. Its diameter is four times that of Earth.
Because the Voyager 2 was the only spacecraft to ever fly with Uranus, astronomers rely on telescopes like the Chandra to learn more about the cold planet, which consists almost entirely of hydrogen and helium.