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Tentative confirmation of an aurora on Uranus


There have been three recent reports of the detection of Lyα radiation (due to atomic hydrogen, H, at wavelength 1,216 Å) from Uranus by means of the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) satellite. The interpretations of these results differ. Two reports conclude that there is a strong aurora on Uranus, but the third concludes that the source is resonance scattering of solar Lyα. We report here detection of emission features due to molecular hydrogen, H2, near 1,600 Å. This detection is near the limit of the IUE sensitivity. If it is real, the detection of H2 emission strongly supports the conclusion that Uranus has an aurora comparable in strength with those of the inner two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn. We also present the first published IUE spectra of the Saturn aurora.

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Caldwell, J., Wagener, R., Owen, T. et al. Tentative confirmation of an aurora on Uranus. Nature 303, 310–312 (1983).

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