Uranus' Strange Magnetosphere Switches Open and Closed, Letting in Solar Wind

New research on Uranus' magnetosphere could help scientists learn about distant systems, and refine the ways they search for alien life.

Uranus has a “switch-like” magnetosphere that opens and closes once every rotation of the planet, exposing it to deadly solar winds, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.


The findings could help scientists understand the mechanics of distant systems, and refine the ways they search for alien life.

First, what exactly is a magnetosphere?

A magnetosphere is the region of space around an object in which charged particles are controlled by that object’s magnetic field. Earth’s magnetosphere shields us from the solar wind – the continual stream of charged particles that flows from the upper atmosphere of the sun – by deflecting the radiation. Without a magnetosphere, radiation would destroy Earth's atmosphere and make it impossible for life and liquid water to exist.

Here's an artists' rendering of Earth's magnetosphere:

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