Solve the mystery of 40 years of the fixed X-ray aurora of Jupiter


July 10, 2021 10:04 GMT

Since their discovery, scientists have wondered how these aurora borealis produce bursts of X-rays every few minutes.

An international team of scientists has solved the mystery of the aurora borealis of Jupiter, a planet that produces amazing periodic bursts of X-rays, as revealed in their study published this week in science progress.

Since their discovery 40 years ago, scientists have wondered how these auroras, which occur at Jupiter’s north and south poles, produce bursts of X-rays every few minutes.

“We’ve seen Jupiter produce X-ray auroras for four decades, but We didn’t know how it happened. We only learned that they were produced when the ions hit the planet’s atmosphere,” he explains in A Release Study co-lead author William Dunn of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London (UCL).

The research team, led by UCL and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, combined observations of Jupiter and its surrounding environment by NASA’s Juno satellite, which is currently orbiting the planet, with simultaneous X-ray measurements from the XMM-observatory. The space agency that orbits the Earth. The observations were made continuously over a period of 26 hours, while Jupiter produced bursts of X-rays every 27 minutes.

the operation

Scientists found that the X-ray flares were caused by periodic vibrations of Jupiter’s magnetic field lines. These vibrations create waves of plasma (ionized gas) that send heavy ionic particles “sailing” along magnetic field lines until they collide with the planet’s atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of X-rays. The researchers used computer models to confirm that the waves were pushing heavy particles into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

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“Now we know these ions are there transmitted by plasma waves, an explanation that had not been proposed before, despite the fact that a similar process produces Earth’s aurora borealis, Dunn asserts, noting that they could be “a global phenomenon, present in many different environments in space.”

The charged ion particles hitting the atmosphere stem from volcanic gas pouring into space from giant volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io. Experts note that this gas is ionized due to collisions in the immediate environment of Jupiter, forming a “circular cake” of plasma that surrounds the planet.

It is not clear why magnetic field lines vibrate periodically, but the vibration may arise from interactions with the solar wind or from high-speed plasma flows within Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Possibilities for future studies

Zhonghua Yao, another co-author from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, notes that defining “this fundamental process” offers many possibilities for future research, where similar processes could occur around Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and possibly also the exoplanets, “with different types of particles.” Charged” surfing “waves.”

Co-author Graziella Branduardi-Raymont, a professor at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, points out that X-rays are typically caused by “extremely powerful and violent phenomena such as black holes” and neutron stars. The minor planets also produce it.

“We will never be able to visit black holes, because they go beyond space travel, but Jupiter is around the cornerThe scientist continues, to conclude that with the Juno satellite reaching the planet’s orbit, astronomers now have a “fantastic opportunity to closely study the environment that produces X-rays.”

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