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Scientists have now figured out how Jupiter produces its X-ray auroras, which has been a long-standing mystery

Scientists have now figured out how Jupiter produces its X-ray auroras, which has been a long-standing mystery

Scientists have now figured out how Jupiter produces its X-ray auroras, which has been a long-standing mystery

Close-up views of Jupiter’s environment by NASA’s Juno satellite, which is presently orbiting the planet, were merged with X-ray data from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton observatory (which is currently orbiting Earth). The X-rays are caused by charged particles colliding with Jupiter’s atmosphere, resulting in bursts of visible and invisible light. The northern lights are a comparable event that occurs on Earth, but Jupiter’s is much more powerful, releasing hundreds of gigawatts of energy, enough to temporarily power all of human civilisation.

A 40-year-old mystery has been solved

A new study led by academics from the United Kingdom and China has finally figured out how Jupiter creates its own form of the aurora borealis, putting an end to a 40-year-old mystery. Astronomers found that Jupiter produces X-ray flares every few minutes four decades ago. Jupiter’s X-ray auroras would appear near the planet’s north and south poles, similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights.

A fantastic opportunity to investigate an environment that emits X-rays up close

A fantastic opportunity to investigate an environment that emits X-rays up close

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Advances on Friday by a research team led by University College London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter, as well as X-ray data from the XMM-Newton space telescope orbiting Earth, were used. “We’ll never be able to visit black holes because they’re beyond our ability to travel across space, but Jupiter is right around the corner.” In a press release, co-author Graziella Branduardi-Raymont remarked, “With the entrance of the satellite Juno into Jupiter’s orbit, scientists now have a fantastic opportunity to investigate an environment that emits X-rays up close.”

The Plasma wave

The scientists discovered that periodic fluctuations in the planet’s magnetic field were causing plasma waves. Plasma is a gas that has been electrically charged as a result of the ionization process. Collisions with other particles in Jupiter’s surroundings lead the gas to become ionized, causing the gas molecules to lose electrons. Plasma waves, according to researchers, propel ionized sulfur and oxygen particles “surfing.” “toward Jupiter’s poles, along the magnetic field lines. These particles are ejected from Io’s volcanoes, one of Jupiter’s moons.

The aurora effect

These particles are guided towards Jupiter’s poles by magnetic field lines, where they fall into the atmosphere. Hundreds of gigawatts of energy are released as a result of the impact of this collision, which produces bright bursts of X-rays that create the aurora effect. Scientists have known Jupiter emits X-ray aurora for four decades, but we didn’t know why. According to co-lead author William Dunn, they were only found when ions interacted with the planet’s atmosphere.

 The heavier particles towards Jupiter’s atmosphere

The waves are expected to occur around Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and likely exoplanets as well.” They discovered a striking link between Juno’s plasma waves and X-ray auroral flares recorded by X-MM Newton at Jupiter’s north pole. The researchers next used computer simulations to establish that the waves would propel the heavier particles towards Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Why the magnetic field lines vibrate on a regular basis?

It’s unknown why the magnetic field lines vibrate on a regular basis, but it could be due to interactions with the solar wind or high-speed plasma flows within Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Jupiter’s magnetic field is 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s, hence its magnetosphere, or the area influenced by the magnetic field, is enormous. It would cover a region several times the size of our moon if visible in the night sky.

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