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Uranus Puts On A Light Show In Breakthrough Photographs

By 04.16.12

Researchers in France have captured the first photographs of auroras on Uranus. Who knew Uranus was so scenic? The Voyager 2 probe detected signs of auroras on Uranus in 1986, but this was the first time anyone was able to photograph Uranus in this state. Which was surprising, because I’ve heard there are many photographs of Uranus on the internet. Just what I heard.

Scientists previously tried to detect auroras on Uranus in 1998 and 2005 but did not succeed; it would appear Uranus is more elusive than the research I’ve read in public bathrooms would suggest. Last September, Laurent Lamy and his team at the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon, France, timed their Hubble observations in an attempt to catch a solar storm directed toward Uranus.

They found two Earth-sized auroral storms of brief duration, as pictured above in research which will be published this week in Geophysical Research Letters. Uranus is going to be so famous.

Lamy hopes to get more opportunities to observe Uranus with Hubble before the telescope’s useful life has passed. He says detecting auroras on Uranus will help them precisely locate the magnetic axis and finally determine which parts of the magnetosphere are active. As you can tell, there is much we don’t yet know about Uranus. Unlike the other planets in our solar system, Uranus’s magnetic axis is about 60 degrees off its spin axis and Uranus as a whole is mysteriously tilted to its side, possibly from being pounded by something huge. Yes, I am 12 years old.

[H/T: NatGeo via Neatorama.]


TAGSCLASSY TIMESFRANCEHUBBLELAURENT LAMYOBSERVATOIRE DE PARISOH WOWscienceSpaceURANUS

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