Jupiter is five times farther from the sun than Earth. So why is its upper atmosphere so much hotter than ours? That’s the question of Jupiter’s energy crisis that scientists have been trying to answer for more than 50 years. On August 4, 2021, a team of scientists led by James O’Donoghue of JAXA announced they’ve solved the puzzle. O’Donoghue said:
We found that Jupiter’s intense aurora, the most powerful in the solar system, is responsible for heating the entire planet’s upper atmosphere to surprisingly high temperatures.
The peer-reviewed journal Nature published the team’s new study on August 4.
Jupiter’s energy crisis: origins
For 50 years, scientists have wondered why the upper atmosphere of Jupiter is so hot even though it’s so far from the sun. This fundamental puzzle has been referred to as Jupiter’s energy crisis. The other giant planets – Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are similarly hotter than expected. So scientists sometimes call this problem the giant planet energy crisis.
Jupiter’s upper atmosphere isn’t just a little hotter than expected. It’s much hotter. Based solely on Jupiter’s distance from the sun, its upper atmosphere should be about -100 F (-73 C). But observations show Jupiter’s upper atmosphere ...