Diving into data obtained several decades ago, NASA scientists have discovered that Uranus’ atmosphere could seep into space. In space exploration, what is closest to Earth sets the priorities. As a general rule, at least that’s the way it has been so far. For an obvious reason of proximity. What is closer affects us more. But, above all, for possibilities. The technique allows missions to be sent to the Moon or Mars, but the same efforts redirected to study Saturn would give meagre results, by comparison. Hence it is striking to have news about the atmosphere of Uranus.
Even more so considering that the novelty was to bury in a set of information collected several decades ago. The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew near Uranus in 1986 and from this trip – even in times of the Cold War – the data comes. In a deep study of what the spacecraft collected, NASA scientists have observed an anomaly in Uranus atmosphere.
When Voyager 2 passed close to the planet more than 30 years ago, it did so via plasmoid. This type of structure is defined as plasma confined by a magnetic field. And scientists have discovered that this mass escapes from Uranus.
From here the researchers have reached another conclusion. With the leakage of this plasmoid into space, part of Uranus’ atmosphere is likely to be washed away. The data collected by Voyager 2 indicates that this plasmoid structure would be about 204,000 kilometres long. Its width would be double.
Much to know
The discovery is an interesting find. But it also reveals how little is known about the other planet in the solar system that has rings. Saturn is well known for this feature, but it took until 1977 to find out what Uranus had. It is this type of data, with droppers, that we have received throughout the history of space exploration.
The leak from the Uranus atmosphere into space has yet to be confirmed. But it is a probable hypothesis considering the collected data on the plasmoid. In fact, scientists believe that a similar phenomenon of gas expulsion could explain the dry and sterile character of Mars.
However, a confirmation will only be obtained by sending another ship to the area. For now, we will remain on the hypothetical ground. Which is not strange considering that Uranus was only discovered a little over 200 years ago. The planet will continue to fatten the list of mysteries – much longer than the list of certainties – of the solar system.