Solar storms trigger Northern Lights on planet Jupiter.
You may have heard about Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis that display spectacular colorful light shows in the northern hemisphere of Earth. The colorful lights appear when gases in Earth’s atmosphere collide with the charged particles coming from the Sun.
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These kind of ‘Northern Lights’ are spotted on planet Jupiter as well, which may look similar to the aurora on Earth but in reality they are eight times brighter and hundreds of times more energetic than those seen on Earth.
Though, Jupiter’s X-ray aurora was detected a long time ago, it was the first time when researchers attempted to study the phenomenon at the arrival of a giant solar storm on the planet. Researchers were aiming to understand the relationship between Jupiter’s magnetic field and its solar wind, which cause to bring changes in aurora.
“There is a constant power struggle between the solar wind and Jupiter’s magnetosphere. We want to understand this interaction and what effect it has on the planet,” said project leader William Dunn from University College London.
“By studying how the aurora changes, we can discover more about the region of space controlled by Jupiter's magnetic field, and if or how this is influenced by the Sun.”
Sun constantly releases stream of particles into the space. When giant storms erupt, the solar winds blow stronger and compress Jupiter’s magnetosphere. This interaction triggers high energy X-rays in Jupiter’s aurora and covers an area larger than the surface of the Earth.
Understanding this relationship is important for unraveling the origin of Jupiter itself as well as the formation of other planets in our solar system including Earth.
“Comparing new findings from Jupiter with what is already known for Earth will help explain how space weather is driven by the solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetosphere,” said co-author Graziella Branduardi Raymont.
“New insights into Jupiter’s atmosphere is influenced by the Sun will help us characterize the atmosphere of exoplanets, giving us clues about whether a planet is likely to support life as we know it.”
The latest research was based on the observational data taken in October 2011 when coronal mass ejection from Sun was predicted to enter the atmosphere of the Jupiter.
The mysterious X-ray aurora began to brighten and dim every 26 minutes like a lighthouse when solar storm reached the planet. But its causes remained uncertain at that time.
“We have a pretty good understanding of how the Earth’s magnetosphere works,” said Dunn. “But the universe is filled with magnetically active objects, including billions of exoplanets. Understanding the diversity of magnetic fields has relevance for understanding whether any of those other planets can support life.”
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