Scientists used red, blue and yellow to infuse this infrared image of Jupiter’s atmosphere (red and yellow indicate the hotter regions). Image credit: NAOJ and NASA/JPL-Caltech
New Earth-based telescope observations show that aurorae at Jupiter’s poles are heating the planet’s atmosphere to a greater depth than previously thought – and that it is a rapid response to the solar wind.
“The solar wind impact at Jupiter is an extreme example of space weather,” says James Sinclair of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, United States, who led new research published 8 April 2019 in Nature Astronomy. “We’re seeing the solar wind having an effect deeper than is normally seen.”
Aurorae at Earth’s poles (known as the aurora borealis at the North Pole and aurora australis at the South Pole) occur when the energetic particles blown out from the Sun (the solar wind) interact with and heat up the gases in the upper atmosphere. The same thing happens at Jupiter, but the new observations show the heating goes two or three times deeper down into its atmosphere than on Earth, into the lower level of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, or stratosphere.
Understanding how the Sun’s constant outpouring of solar wind interacts ...