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Spectacular Planetary-Scale “Heat Wave” Discovered in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

A panning-view of Jupiter’s upper atmospheric temperatures, 1000 kilometers above the cloud tops. Jupiter is shown on top of a visible image for context. In this snapshot, the auroral region (near the northern pole, in yellow/white) appears to have shed a massive, planetary-scale wave of heating towards the equator. The feature is over 130,000 kilometers long, or 10-Earth diameters, and is hundreds of degrees warmer than the background. Credit: Hubble / NASA / ESA / A. Simon (NASA GSFC) / J. Schmidt, James O’Donoghue

An unexpected ‘heat wave’ has been discovered in JupiterJupiter is the largest planet in the solar system and the fifth planet from the sun. It is a gas giant with a mass greater then all of the other planets combined. Its name comes from the Roman god Jupiter.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Jupiter’s atmosphere. It reaches a scorching temperature of 700 degrees CelsiusThe Celsius scale, also known as the centigrade scale, is a temperature scale named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius. In the Celsius scale, 0 °C is the freezing point of water and 100 °C is the boiling point of water at 1 atm pressure.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Celsius (1300 degrees FahrenheitThe Fahrenheit scale is a temperature scale, named after the German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and based on one he proposed in 1724. In the Fahrenheit temperature scale, the freezing point of water freezes is 32 °F and water boils at 212 °F, a 180 °F separation, as defined at sea level and standard atmospheric pressure. ” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Fahrenheit) and extends 130,000 kilometers (10 Earth diameters). James O’Donoghue, of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXAFormed in 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA performs various activities related to aerospace, from basic research in the aerospace field to development and utilization and is responsible for research, technology development, and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>JAXA), presented the results at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Granada.  

Jupiter’s atmosphere is famous for its characteristic multicolored vortices. However, it is also unexpectedly hot. In fact, it is hundreds of degrees hotter than models predict. After all, the giant planet receives under 4% of the amount of sunlight compared to Earth, due to its orbital distance of 483 million miles (778 million km) from the Sun. Therefore its upper atmosphere should theoretically be a frigid -70 degrees Celsius (-100 degrees Fahrenheit). Instead, its cloud tops are measured everywhere at over 400 degrees Celsius (750 degrees Fahrenheit).

“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. “Thanks to these maps, we demonstrated that Jupiter’s auroras were a possible mechanism that could explain these temperatures.”

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Just like the Earth, Jupiter experiences auroras around its poles as an effect of the solar wind. However, auroras at Jupiter are permanent and have a variable intensity, while Earth’s auroras are transient and only occur when solar activity is intense. The powerful auroras can heat the region around the poles to over 700 degrees Celsius, and global winds can redistribute the heat globally around Jupiter.

Looking more deeply through their data, Dr. O’Donoghue and his research team discovered the spectacular ‘heat wave’ just below the northern aurora, and found that it was traveling towards the equator at a speed of thousands of kilometers per hour. 

The heat wave was most likely triggered by a pulse of enhanced solar wind plasmaPlasma is one of the four fundamental states of matter, along with solid, liquid, and gas. It is an ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons. It was first described by chemist Irving Langmuir in the 1920s.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>plasma impacting Jupiter’s magnetic field. This would have boosted auroral heating and forced hot gases to expand and spill out towards the equator.

“While the auroras continuously deliver heat to the rest of the planet, these heat wave ‘events’ represent an additional, significant energy source,” added Dr. O’Donoghue. “These findings add to our knowledge of Jupiter’s upper-atmospheric weather and climate, and are a great help in trying to solve the ‘energy crisis’ problem that plagues research into the giant planets.”

Meeting: Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022

Source: SciTechDaily