Researchers have found that Jupiter's 'Northern Lights' triggered by the Sun's solar storms are hundreds of times more intense than Earth's aurora borealis. The solar storms produced a new X-ray aurora that is eight times brighter than usual.
It's the first time researchers analyzed the phenomenon when the Sun's giant storm arrived on the giant planet. The research was led by the University College London (UCL) and used NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The findings matched the space agency's Juno mission wherein they aim to analyze the link between two space regions: one controlled by Jupiter's magnetic field and the other by the solar wind. These are our solar system's two biggest structures.
Lead author William Dunn said there is a continuous power struggle between Jupiter's magnetosphere and the solar wind. The goal is to analyze the interaction of the two powerful structures and its effect on the giant planet.
Study the variations in the auroras can help bring forth more information about the space regions control by Jupiter's magnetosphere and see if it is in any way affected by the Sun.
"Understanding this relationship is important for the countless magnetic objects across the galaxy, including exoplanets, brown dwarfs and neutron stars," added Dunn, who is a Ph.D. student at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
The Sun is constantly emitting streams of particles into space through the solar wind. Whenever giant storms take place, the solar winds become more intense and compress the giant planet's magnetosphere.
The phenomenon shifts the magnetosphere's boundary 1.2 million miles through space. The two structures' contact at the border creates the high-energy X-rays in the giant planet's aurora. The more intense Northern Lights can then cover an area bigger than the Earth's surface.
The observations enabled the researchers to create 3D images of the X-ray phenomenon. The findings can locate Jupiter's magnetic field locations for additional studies. The research was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics on March 22.
Graziella Branduardi-Raymont, a UCL researcher who was also part of the study, said that new information on how Jupiter's atmosphere is affected by the Sun can help characterize exoplanets' atmosphere. It can also provide clues if a planet is capable of supporting life.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr