NASA has some News about the Extreme Tilt of Uranus

NASA has some News about the Extreme Tilt of Uranus

The most detailed explanation about the Rolling Rotation of Uranus was revealed by the researchers of the Durham University and the Ames Research Center of NASA.

Uranus is a bluish green ice giant which carries a fluid mix of Methane, Ammonia, and Water ices. Most of its atmosphere is comprised of Hydrogen and Helium but small traces of Methane are also there. Although it is not the most distant planet in our solar system, it has certainly the coldest atmosphere among its companions. The fact that it produces no internal warmth and relies totally on the Sun’s heat is the reason for that. The feature that distinguishes Uranus from the rest of the planets is its outrageous tilt.

Generally, the magnetic poles of a planet are lined up with its rotating axis but that’s not the case with Uranus. The fact that it orbits the Sun on its side is the most appropriate evidence to explain the extent of its tilt. Due to the tilt of its magnetic poles, the magnetic axis is at an angle of more than 60o from its axis of rotation. This leads to a strange lopsided magnetic field where its strength is different for both hemispheres. According to Norman F. Ness, the strength of the magnetic field at the Northern Hemisphere is 10 times more than its strength at the Southern Hemisphere. He also mentioned that it plays an important role in disturbing the normal formation of auroras. Similarly, this lopsided magnetic field flickers on and off with every rotation.

This extraordinary tilt results in extreme weather on the planet. As a side of Uranus faces the Sun, it shines directly over one of the poles for a quarter of the Uranian year. During that time, the other pole undergoes a long spell of dark and cold winter. In case you are wondering how long is a Uranian year? It is approximately equal to 336 years on Earth (84 years of winter). Other than extreme temperature, this unusual axial tilt is also responsible for the massive storms that emerge in the atmosphere of Uranus.

According to NASA, these storms can be bigger than the entire continent of North America. Funny thing is that it was attributed as the ‘Most Boring Planet’ in “The Ice Giants Systems of Uranus and Neptune” by an astronomer called Heidi Hammel. He used the first-ever images of the planet to deduce that. Technological advancement led to powerful telescopes like Hubble Space Telescope which showed us a lot more than what Hammel saw and things changed dramatically ever since.

Scientists have always strived hard to find the event(s) that led to this tilt and it seems that they might have struck gold this time around. The researchers of the Durham University collaborated with the scientists of the Ames Research Center of NASA to come up with this amazing insight. The idea that this tilt was caused by a collision (either with a huge heavenly body or several small bodies) has been there in the scientific community for quite some time but it lacked a logical explanation. This team proved that a young proto-planet made up of rock and ice collided with Uranus some 4 billion years ago. They made use of the latest computing techniques to develop the most detailed simulation showing the impact.

This was the first occasion when the atmosphere of the planet was also taken into account for creating the simulations of the impact. This seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle as it helped the scientists to define the event in a much better way. They made more than 50 simulations of impact scenarios which showed that the colliding object was at least twice as big as the Earth. The collision was so strong that not only did it push the planet onto its side but it also reshaped it. However, it didn’t have the strength to alter the orbit of Uranus or blast its atmosphere. The simulations showed that the rock and the ice which were thrown into the orbit merged together to form moons and rings around the ice giant. This discovery is expected to reveal quite a lot about exoplanets as many of those found by Kepler Space Telescope have an icy and rocky core while their atmosphere is gaseous.

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