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A mysterious glow warms Uranus rings

A kind of heat wave heats the rings of Uranus although the planet orbits far from the Sun.

New thermal images of the planet, taken with two telescopes in Chile reveal for the first time the temperature of the rings: minus 195 degrees Celsius or the boiling point of liquid nitrogen.

While this may sound cold by terrestrial standards, keep in mind that most of the space is much colder and nears a temperature where atoms do not move. This point is called absolute zero, which is approximately minus 273 ° C.

Related: Photos of Uranus, the inclined giant planet

And Uranus itself is located quite far out in the solar system, where the planet receives only a fraction of the heat from the heat Sun receiving the earth. The Ice Giant orbits our star at an average distance of 1

9 astronomical units (AU), with each AU corresponding to the average distance from Earth to the Sun or 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). [19659002] The scientists who took the new pictures are not sure what causes the relative heat. But the strange temperature proves that the brightest and densest ring in Uranus (also known as the Epsilon Ring) is very different from other ring systems in our solar system.

Every giant planet in our solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – has its own rings, but Saturn's are the most spectacular and best understood . This is because they are well visible with a small telescope and have been closely examined by NASA's Cassini mission. Saturn's rings, however, differ significantly from those of Uranus.

Uranus and its rings in the radio wavelength range of the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in December 2017.

( Picture credits: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO), E. Molter and I. de Pater)

"Saturn's primarily icy rings are broad [and] bright and have a range of particle sizes ranging from micrometer-sized dust in the innermost D-ring to several tens of meters [or feet] in the size of the main rings, "said co-author Imke de Pater, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement . "The small end is missing in the main rings of Uranus. The brightest ring, epsilon, consists of golf ball-sized and larger rocks."

The epsilon ring also differs from rings observed on the other giant planets. Jupiter's rings consist of particles each about one-thousandth of a millimeter in diameter, while Neptune's rings consist almost entirely of dust. The Epsilon ring does not even look like the main rings of Uranus, as there are huge dust particles in between.

"We already know that the epsilon ring is a bit strange because we do not see the smaller parts," said lead author and graduate student Edward Molter, who is also at the University of California at Berkeley, in the same statement. "Something has swept out the smaller material, or it all fits together, we just do not know it, this is a step toward understanding the [the rings’] composition and whether all the rings are from the same source material or are different for each ring."

An artist's impression of Uranus and his rings, which are remarkably dark but surprisingly warm.

[Picture credits: NRAO / AUI / NSF, S. Dagnello]

Another mystery is how Uranus and the other planets received their rings at all. Perhaps one or more moons came too close to the planet and broke apart, as did the probable fate of Marsmond Phobos . Perhaps moons crashed into each other and shattered into pieces, which might one day reappear on Jupiter, where the orbit of a newly found moon crosses the lane of several other moons. Or maybe the rings of trapped asteroids that collapsed when under the influence of a planet's gravity. The rings could also be from debris left behind at the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

The scientists used the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Telescope in Chile to collect the data in the new research. The researchers hoped, however, that even better information about the curious uranium ring came from NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (19459003), which could collect data on the elemental composition of the epsilon ring (19659002) described in a recent article published on the Publication was accepted in the Astronomical Journal and is available in the Preprint version on arXiv .

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .

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