Uranus' magnetic field flips on and off like a light switch

  |   Tech News

Scientists have found that Uranus' magnetic field gets flipped on and off like a light switch every day as the planet rotates. Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology in the US made the discovery based on the data from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft that sped past Uranus in 1986.

"The magnetosphere is 'open' in one orientation, allowing solar wind to flow into the magnetosphere; it later closes, forming a shield against the solar wind and deflecting it away from the planet," researchers said.

This is much different from Earth's magnetosphere, which typically only switches between open and closed in response to changes in the solar wind. Since the same alignment of Earth's magnetosphere is always facing toward the sun, the magnetic field threaded in the ever-present solar wind must change direction in order to reconfigure Earth's field from closed to open. This frequently occurs with strong solar storms.

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