An unexpected “heat wave” of 700 degrees Celsius, extending 130,000 kilometers (10 Earth diameters) through Jupiter’s atmosphere, has been discovered. James O’Donoghue of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) presented the findings this week at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Grenada.
Jupiter’s atmosphere, famous for its characteristic multicolored vortices, is also surprisingly hot: in fact, it is several hundred degrees warmer than the models predict. Due to its orbital distance of millions of miles from the Sun, the giant planet receives less than 4% of the amount of sunlight compared to Earth, and its upper atmosphere should theoretically be -70 degrees Celsius. Instead, its cloud tops everywhere are measured at over 400 degrees Celsius.
“Last year we produced – and presented at EPSC2021 – the first maps of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere capable of identifying the dominant heat sources,” said Dr O’Donoghue. “Through these maps, we demonstrated that Jupiter’s auroras were a possible mechanism that could explain these temperatures.”
Like Earth, Jupiter experiences auroras around its poles driven by the solar wind. However, while Earth’s auroras are transient and only occur when solar activity is intense, Jupiter’s auroras are permanent and vary in intensity. Powerful auroras can heat the region around the poles to over 700 degrees Celsius, and global winds can redistribute heat globally around Jupiter.
Digging deeper into their data, Dr. O’Donoghue and his team discovered the spectacular “heat wave” just below the Aurora Borealis and found that it was moving towards the equator at a speed of thousands of miles per hour. hour.
The heat wave was likely triggered by a pulse of solar-enhanced wind plasma impacting Jupiter’s magnetic field, which stimulated auroral heating and forced hot gases to expand and spread toward the equator.
“While the aurora continuously provides heat to the rest of the planet, these heat wave ‘events’ represent a significant additional source of energy,” added Dr O’Donoghue. “These findings add to our knowledge of the weather and climate of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, and are of great help in trying to solve the problem of the ‘energy crisis’ plaguing giant planet research.”
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