Geeking Science: Uranus Magnetic Field Flips

Image from Nasa

Worlds are opening up as we look to the stars and find planets. Many of the exo-planets found are gas giants, so the little information we have about our Big Buddies in the Solar System is becoming more and more valuable.

On June 27, 2017, Xin Cao and Carol Paty article “Diurnal and seasonal variability of Uranus’s magnetosphere” appearing in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space physics released to some minor shock and awe. Uranus’s magnetosphere is messed up. Not only is its spin axis 98 degrees off – making the planet’s path around the solar system more of a roll than a hover, but Uranus’s magnetic field is tilted at a 60 degrees angle.

The crazy rolling field twists around every day letting solar winds in some of the time, no doubt creating spectacular Borealis for whatever lives on the surface trying to figure out where the north and south poles are. The balance of the time, the magnetosphere pulls off the fan dance, hiding the naked gaseous surface from the winds.

How does the atmosphere of the gas giant remain in the gravity field instead of being blown into space by the winds?

And how many of the gas giants we have discovered outside our system dance like a drunken marble around their suns?

One way to find out is studying our Big Buddies a little more. Uranus’s only visitor has been Voyager 2 in 1986. NASA has possible missions heading that way next decade, maybe; feel free to write your Congressmen to make them a little more possible. I wonder what new mystery Uranus is going to reveal if we drop by again.

Bibliography

Abstract for Diurnal and seasonal variability of Uranus’s magnetosphere. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017JA024063/full (Last viewed 11/10/2017 – link did not work on 11/16/2017).

Uranus is Even Freakier Than We Thought by Rae Paoletta, 6/23/2017. https://gizmodo.com/uranus-is-even-freakier-than-we-thought-1796378503 (Last viewed 11/10/2017).

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