What is causing the energy crisis on Jupiter for decades?


New research has indicated Jupiter’s energy crisis solution, which astronomers have been trying to find out for decades. Auroras in our solar systems are common phenomena on planets with substantial magnetic fields Jupiter and Earth.

Jupiter is the giant planet in the solar system and 5th from the Sun. It is a gas giant with a mass more than two and half times that of all the other planets in the solar systems combined but slightly less than one-thousandth the mass of the Sun. In Earth’s night sky after Moon and Venus, it is the 3rd brightest natural object. It has been named after Roman God Jupiter and is mainly composed of hydrogen. Helium comprises one-tenth of its volume and one-quarter of its mass. Jupiter has a rocky core of heavy elements and lacks a well-defined solid surface.

In the equator of Jupiter 11, Earth could fit. The planet orbits about 484 million miles and rotates once every 10 hours but to complete one orbit of the Sun takes about 12 Earth years. It cannot support life, but some of its moons have oceans beneath their crusts that might help life. Great red spot is there, which is a gigantic storm and is about twice the size of the Earth. It has a faint planetary ring system and a powerful magnetosphere. Eighty known moons are in Jupiter. 

Jupiter is expected to be particularly warm. Based on the amount of sunlight received, the average temperature in the upper atmosphere in Jupiter should be about a chilly minus 73 Celsius or minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But the measured value soars to around 426 Celsius or 800 degrees Fahrenheit. For 5o years source of this extra heat has been challenging to find out for scientists.

Space scientists at the University of Leicester worked with colleagues from Boston University, the Japanese Space, Agency, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology to find out the mechanism behind Jupiter’s atmospheric heating. Astronomers have created the most detailed global map of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere using data from the Keck Observatory in Hawai’i.

According to Dr James O’Donoghue, a researcher at JAXA and lead author for the research paper, “We first began trying to create a global heat map of Jupiter’s uppermost atmosphere at the University of Leicester. The signal was not bright enough to reveal anything outside of Jupiter’s polar regions at the time, but with the lessons learned from that work we managed to secure time on one of the largest, most competitive telescopes on Earth some years later.”

He further shared that they could produce temperature maps of extraordinary detail by using the Keck telescope. They found that temperatures start very high within the aurora, which was expected from previous work. But now, they could observe that the planet’s aurora appears to be heating the whole thing, despite taking up less than 10% of the area of the planet. This research started and carried on at NASA and Boston University before ending at JAXA in Japan in Leicester.

The two factors which made the study successful are – 

  • Collaborators from each continent are working together.
  • The combined data from JAXA’s Hisaki spacecraft, an observatory in space, and NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbit Jupiter.

Aurorae occur in a planet’s magnetic field when charged particles are caught towards the planet’s magnetic poles; these spiral along the field lines, striking molecules and atoms in the atmosphere to release energy and light. The material spewing from its volcanic moon, Io, at this planet leads to the most powerful aurora in the Solar System and extensive heating in the polar region of the planet. The Jovian aurorae have long been for prolonged heating Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The planet’s magnetic field is powerful about 20,000 times more powerful than Earth, and because of this, its magnetosphere is vast. If the magnetosphere was visible in the night sky, it could cover a region many times the size of Earth’s Moon. Jupiter’s auroras are more potent than Earth and release hundreds of gigawatts.

The aurora emits unusual X-ray flares, and the origination of these flares is from electrically charged oxygen, and sulfur ions are sent by the moon Lo. Each auroras alone releases about a gigawatt. The specific mechanism driving these auroras has long been a mystery. Scientists discovered that the X-ray flares trigger regular vibrations of the planet’s magnetic field lines. These vibrations generate planetary-scale waves of plasma. But it remains unclear why the planet’s magnetic field lines vibrate regularly. According to researchers, the reasons could be interactions with solar winds or high-speed plasma flows within the magnetosphere.

Using images consisting of only several pixels, the upper atmospheric temperature was formed in the previous maps. This is not enough resolution to see how temperature changes across Jupiter. Only a few hints are given for the extra heat. the researchers at different spatial resolutions create five maps of atmospheric temperature. The highest resolution map shows an average temperature measurement for squares two degrees longitude high by two degrees latitude wide. The team scoured ten thousand individual data points, only mapping points with less than five per cent uncertainty.

In the models of the planet’s atmosphere, it is shown that they work like a giant refrigerator; towards the pole from the equator, heat energy is drawn, and in these poles, regions are deposited in the lower atmosphere. According to the new findings, the waves of energy against this poleward flow can be driven by the fast-changing aurorae, which allow the heat to reach the equator.

High-resolution temperature maps, combined with magnetic field data from Juno, Hisaki from Keck II, helped the team to find the aurora in the way of sending what appears toward the planet’s equator to be a pulse of heat. With the Keck II telescope, the team observed on two separate nights for 5 hours in April 2016 and January 2017. On Keck II, using the Near-Infrared Spectrometer, heat from electrically charged hydrogen molecules in the planet’s atmosphere was traced from the planet’s poles down to the equator.

JAXA’s Hisaki satellite observation showed that conditions during the Keck II temperature observations could generate an intense aurora on the planet. Since the mission’s launch in 2013, Hisaki has observed the aurora-generating magnetic field around the planet from the orbit around the Earth.

It is revealed by long-term monitoring that the planet’s magnetic field is strongly influenced by the solar wind, which carries its magnetic field. When this meets the planet’s planetary field, the latter is compressed. Hisaki showed at the time of the Keck II observations, pressure from the solar wind was exceptionally high, and an enhanced aurora is likely to be created by the field compression.

Observations from Juno in orbit around Jupiter revealed the exact location of the aurora on the planet. Juno’s magnetic field data provided the reallocation of the aurora. From the heat maps, this information is readily available as heat leaks away in many directions.










About the author

Nick Brown

Nick is a qualified writer and a blogger, who loves to dabble with and write about technology. While focusing on and writing on tech topics, his varied skills and experience enable him to write on any topic related to tech which may interest him. [email protected]

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