The discovery of a “heat wave” on a planetary scale in the atmosphere of Jupiter


Europlanet Media Center Panoramic view of the upper atmosphere temperatures of Jupiter, 1,000 km above the cloud tops. Jupiter appears above the visible image of the context. In this shot, the auroral region (near the North Pole, in yellow/white) appears to have cast a massive planetary-scale heating wave toward the equator. This feature is more than 130,000 kilometers long, or 10 diameters from Earth, and is hundreds of degrees warmer than the background. For the video see: Credit: Hubble/NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA GSFC)/J. Schmidt. Credit: James O’Donoghue

An unexpected “heat wave” of 700°C has been detected, extending 130,000 km (10 Earth diameters) in Jupiter’s atmosphere. James O’Donoghue, of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), presented the findings this week at the Europlanet Science Conference (EPSC) 2022 in Granada.

Jupiter’s atmosphere, famous for its distinctive multicolored swirls, is also unexpectedly hot: in fact, it’s hundreds of degrees warmer than models predict. Due to its orbital distance of millions of kilometers from the Sun, the giant planet receives less than 4% of the amount of sunlight compared to Earth, and the upper part of it atmosphere The temperature should theoretically be -70 ° C. Instead, its cloud tops are everywhere measured at more than 400 degrees Celsius.

“Last year we produced – and presented at EPSC2021 – the first maps of Jupiter upper atmosphere Dr. O’Donoghue said he is able to identify the sources of prevailing heat. Thanks to these maps, we showed that Jupiter’s aurora borealis was a potential mechanism that could explain these temperatures.

Just like Earth, Jupiter experiences auroras around its poles as an effect of the solar wind. However, while the aurora borealis on Earth is transient and only occurs when solar activity Intense, auroras on Jupiter are permanent and have variable intensity. Strong auroras can heat the region around the poles to more than 700 degrees Celsius, and global winds can redistribute heat globally around Jupiter.

Looking more deeply into their data, Dr. O’Donoghue and his team detected an astonishing “heat wave” just below the northern region aurora borealisand found that it was traveling toward the equator at a speed of thousands of kilometers per hour.

The heat wave was likely caused by a pulse of enhanced solar wind plasma affecting Jupiter’s magnetic field, which enhanced auroral heating and forced hot gases to expand and spill toward the equator.

“While the aurora borealis constantly transmits heat to the rest of the planet, these heat wave Dr O’Donoghue added that “events” represent an important additional source of energy. These results add to our knowledge of the weather and climate of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, and are very helpful in trying to solve the “energy crunch” problem. who afflicts the search in giant planets. ”

The atmosphere of Jupiter is heated under the influence of the solar wind

Presented by Europlanet Media Center

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