Jupiter’s atmosphere reacts quickly to the solar wind


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New data from ground-based telescopes show that the atmosphere of Jupiter quickly changes due to changes in the solar wind, and that these changes descend deeper into the atmosphere than expected.

Auroras at Earth’s poles (known as the aurora borealis at the North Pole and aurora australis at the South Pole) occur when the energetic particles blown out from the Sun (the solar wind) interact with and heat up the gases in the upper atmosphere. The same thing happens at Jupiter, but the new observations show the heating goes two or three times deeper down into its atmosphere than on Earth, into the lower level of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, or stratosphere.

…”What is startling about the results is that we were able to associate for the first time the variations in solar wind and the response in the stratosphere – and that the response to these variations is so quick for such a large area,” said JPL’s Glenn Orton, co-author and part of the observing team.

Within a day of the solar wind hitting Jupiter, the chemistry in its atmosphere changed and its temperature rose, the team found. An infrared image captured during their observing campaign in January, February and May of 2017 clearly shows hot spots near the poles, where Jupiter’s auroras are.

Considering Jupiter’s size, for these effects to extend so quickly really is startling.

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3 comments

  • Phill O

    Startling Yes. Maybe we should have expected this? We do not know what we do not know about earths atmospheric interactions. We know many things we do not know, but so many things we need to know we do not know.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Jupiter’s magnetic field is the most powerful of any planet. Perhaps the power of this magnetic field also multiplies the particle flux captured and bent downward into Jupiter’s atmosphere?

  • Phill O

    Dock If I remember my elementary physics, the stronger the magnetic field, the higher velocities that can be reached. Have I forgotten something?

    By the way, has anyone else looked at Jupiter lately? The two standard bands seem to have united across a large portion of the equatorial region. Got some incredible views last night (more like this morning) in my 32″

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