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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.

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Images courtesy of Wikipedia [magnetic field diagram] and NASA, ESA, L. Sromovsky and P. Fry (University of Wisconsin), H. Hammel (Space Science Institute), and K. Rages (SETI Institute) [Uranus photo].

The Magnetic Poles of Uranus

Uranus has a strange magnetic field. The magnetic poles of Uranus are not at all close to the geographic poles of Uranus.

The main magnetic field of Uranus is tilted 59 away from the planet's spin axis. Earth's magnetic field is tilted, too... but only by 11. The magnetic field of Uranus is shifted, too. It doesn't quite go through the center of the planet.

The magnetic field of Earth is pretty much like the magnetic field around a bar magnet. It has a North Pole and a South Pole. It is called a dipole ("two poles") field. The magnetic field of Uranus is more complicated. It has a dipole part... but it also has a part with four poles. With all of these poles and its crazy tilt, the magnetic field on Uranus changes a lot from place to place. At some places on Uranus the magnetic field is only 1/3rd as strong as Earth's field. In other places the field on Uranus is almost four times as strong as Earth's!

Why is the Uranian magnetic field so odd? Scientists think that electrical currents in a salty ocean inside Uranus may create its magnetic field. That ocean isn't at the core of Uranus. Most planets make their magnetic field at their core. Maybe that's why the field around Uranus is so odd. Neptune is the other planet most like Uranus. Neptune has a strange magnetic field, too.

Uranus has a magnetosphere that is pretty normal compared to other planets. It also has aurora... like the Southern and Northern Lights on Earth.

Last modified May 5, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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