Thursday, July 18, 2024

‘Traffic jams’ around Uranus could solve the mystery of its weak radiation belts

Scientists may have solved a lingering mystery surrounding the ice giant Uranus and its weak radiation belts. It’s possible the belts’ weakness is linked to the planet’s curiously tilted and lopsided magnetic field; the field could be causing “traffic jams” for particles whipping around the world.

The mystery dates back to Voyager 2’s visit to Uranus in January 1986, far before the probe left the solar system in 2018. The spacecraft found that Uranus‘ magnetic field is asymmetric and tilted roughly 60° away from its spin axis. Additionally, Voyager 2 found that the radiation belts of Uranus, consisting of particles trapped by this magnetic field, are about 100 times weaker than predicted.

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