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Education Smart & Weird

Uranus blasted a gas bubble 22,000 times bigger than Earth: major requirement for Uranus mission!

The seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus, is the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Owing to its large chemical composition similar to Neptune, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as “ice giants” to distinguish them from the gas giants. Apart from hydrogen and helium, it contains more “ices” such as water, ammonia, and methane, along with traces of other hydrocarbons, making it the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System.

Undoubtedly, Uranus is a weir planet. Swirling with mostly water, methane, and ammonia, the Earth is over at 98 degrees with its magnetic field strangely misaligned with the planet’s rotation as a result of which its magnetic poles take turns directly facing the sun.

In 1986, the NASA initiated Voyager 2, which remains to be the only visitor from India, flew a mere 50,600 miles above Uranus’s cloudy skies. As it passed, Voyager 2 heard an odd magnetic whisper, a signal so fleeting that it went unnoticed.

Post more than three decades later, while taking a deep dive into the venerable spacecraft’s data pool, scientists hoped to find scientific mysteries that could help support a return mission to Uranus and its ice giant sibling, Neptune. They revealed that the magnetic hiccup was the detection of a mass of electrically excited gas with a width ten times Earth’s circumference.

This ginormous bubble was the discarded part of Uranus’s atmosphere, which probably happens every 17 hours, the time it takes Uranus to complete one rotation. It’s quite risky as this process is draining the planet’s atmosphere. Still, scientists aren’t anticipating a vanishing act as Uranus has so much gas in its atmosphere that it will surely survive the remainder of the solar system’s life.

As also mentioned in the NASA blog post recently, this anomaly was the emission by a 250,000-mile thick cylindrical mass of electrified hydrogen gas from Uranus. The ice giant was losing its atmosphere, a fate it shares with many worlds.

This vaporous blob was called a Plasmoid which has been found around several planets, and like snowflakes, no two are alike. It seems that owing to the planet’s rapid rotation. This gas discarding was flung off Uranus.

Plasmoids are known to roll off the elongated magnetic tail that stretches behind a planet’s dark side. If Voyager 2 had spent more time in Uranus’s magnetic tail, said Dr. Gershman, many more plasmoids could have been seen. But we’ll have to go back to spot more.

Owing to such mysteries, it is indeed required for a sooner mission for Uranus.