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Auroras of Uranus 'captured'


A NASA photo of Uranus.

LONDON (PTI): Astronomers claim to have for the first time captured images of auroras above the giant ice planet Uranus, providing further evidence of just how peculiar a world the distant planet is.

Detected by means of carefully scheduled observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the newly witnessed Uranian light show consisted of short-lived, faint, glowing dots, says an international team.

Auroras are produced in the atmosphere as charged solar wind particles accelerate in the magnetosphere and are guided by the magnetic field close to the magnetic poles -- that's why the Earthly auroras are found around high latitudes.

But contrary to Earth -- or even Jupiter and Saturn -- "the magnetosphere of Uranus is very poorly known", said Laurent Lamy, with the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon, France, who led the new research.

Auroras on Uranus are fainter than they are on Earth, and the planet is more than four billion kilometres away.

"This planet was only investigated in detail once, during the Voyager flyby, dating from 1986. Since then, we've had no opportunities to get new observations of this very unusual magnetosphere," Lamy said in a release.

The findings have been published in the 'Geophysical Research Letters' journal.

Tags:

Uranus  Aurora  

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