Uranus Opens And Closes Every Day To Let Out Solar Wind, According To Scientists

by : Francesca Donovan on : 18 Jul 2017 17:32

Uranus passes wind everyday, according to scientists, who may or may not be referring to the seventh planet in our solar system. 


The icy, enigmatic giant, which lies approximately 200 million miles away from our planet, has more in common with us bottom-dwellers here on Earth than you might think.

A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the topsy-turvy motion of Uranus’ magnetosphere lets the planet pass wind every single day, like clockwork.

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Uranus opens up its magnetic field – the rotating barrier which holds the planetary material – and lets in solar wind when the planet turns to one orientation dubbed ‘the on switch’.


Later in the cycle, the planet then deflects the gaseous solar wind away from its magnetosphere by closing up the hole in the field, when it’s switched ‘off’.


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Using information from NASA’s Voyager 2 flyby in 1986, the only visit to Uranus by spacecraft in history, the folk at Georgia Institute of Technology discovered the planet’s unashamed daily ablutions.

Carol Paty, the Georgia Tech associate professor who co-authored the study, said:

Uranus is a geometric nightmare – the magnetic field tumbles very fast, like a child cart wheeling down a hill head over heels.

When the magnetised solar wind meets this tumbling field in the right way, it can reconnect and Uranus’ magnetosphere goes from open to closed to open on a daily basis.

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It’s not all just hot air though – the team believe discovering more about the seventh planet’s silent but violent magnetic fields will unlock other information about our solar system.


Xin Cao, the Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate who led the study explained:

Understanding how these complex magnetospheres shield exoplanets from stellar radiation is of key importance for studying the habitability of these newly discovered worlds.

Where Earth spins on a 90 degree axis, Uranus lies on a 60 degree tilt and rotates on its side, leaving a lopsided magnetic field – that’s why its field periodically opens and closes.

Earth typically only switches between open and closed in response to changes in the solar wind, we can all relate.

No wonder the other planets veer clear of Uranus.

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Xin Cao, the Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate who led the study continued:

Perhaps what we see on Uranus and Neptune is the norm for planets.

Finally, science is speaking out and normalising natural gaseous activity.

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.

Topics: Science


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