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.

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What a Purple Column of Light Named “Steve” Teaches Us About Our Potential

Here’s how a discovery by a plucky band of sky-watchers changed science. 

 

Aurora borealis or the northern lights. Getty Images.

What would you think if you were looking into the night sky and saw a purple column of light streak vertically in front of you? At first glance, it appears to be a phenomenon much like the Aurora Borealis or “Northern Lights,” according to Eric Donovan. He’s an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary. Prof. Donovan says it has the same arc shape as an aurora but the color is different. Auroras also usually go horizontally, while “Steve” as it’s been named, is vertical.

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