“Uranus is a geometric nightmare,” said Carol Paty, the Georgia Tech associate professor who co-authored the study. “The magnetic field tumbles very fast, like a child cartwheeling down a hill head over heels. When the magnetized solar wind meets this tumbling field in the right way, it can reconnect and Uranus’ magnetosphere goes from open to closed to open on a daily basis.”
“The majority of exoplanets that have been discovered appear to also be ice giants in size,” said Xin Cao, the Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate in earth and atmospheric sciences who led the study. “Perhaps what we see on Uranus and Neptune is the norm for planets: very unique magnetospheres and less-aligned magnetic fields. Understanding how these complex magnetospheres shield exoplanets from stellar radiation is of key importance for studying the habitability of these newly discovered worlds.”
Dr. Carol Paty joined the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in 2008. Her research is in the area of space and planetary scientist focused primarily on magnetosphere dynamics particularly as it pertains to the near-space environment of planetary bodies. She received her Ph.D. degree in Earth and Space Sciences from the University of Washington in 2006. She was a Postdoctoral researcher at the Southwest research Institute from 2006 to 2008.