Astronomers have been able to figure out the causes of the auroras on Jupiter. They have not known their nature for the past 40 years.
A research team led by University College London has solved the puzzle that scientists have been wrestling with for decades. They did not understand how Jupiter produces a burst of X-rays every few minutes.
X-rays are part of the Jupiter Aurora – bursts of visible and invisible light that occur when charged particles interact with the planet’s atmosphere. A similar phenomenon occurs on Earth, creating the northern lights, but in Jupiter it is much more powerful and releases hundreds of gigawatts of energy. This is enough for a short-term energy supply to the entire Earth.
In a new study, published in Science Advances, scientists have combined close-up observations of Jupiter’s environment with NASA’s Juno satellite. They also took into account data from X-ray measurements from the XMM-Newton observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA).
The research team found that the X-ray flares were caused by periodic fluctuations in Jupiter’s magnetic field lines. These vibrations create waves of plasma (ionized gas) that send heavy ion particles along magnetic field lines until they crash into the planet’s atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of X-rays.
“Now we know that ions are carried by plasma waves – this explanation has not been offered by other researchers in 40 years, although a similar process is behind the auroras on Earth. This can be a universal phenomenon that is present in many environments in space, ”the scientists noted.
X-rays occur at the north and south poles of Jupiter. Occasionally, the planet produced bursts of X-rays every 27 minutes.