Surprise! Solar storms causing mysterious heat waves and AURORAS - on Jupiter

    Scientists have finally unraveled one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the planet Jupiter. And it turns out that solar storms were behind it all.

    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Nov 16 2022, 16:10 IST
    NASA: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter makes astonishing discovery
    Moon
    1/6 The lunar pits found by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have mild temperatures, drastically different from the extreme conditions on the surface of the Moon. The temperatures in these caves are nearly 17 degree Celsius almost at all times. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
    Moon
    2/6 NASA Moon recently tweeted, "Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of pits indicate that the Moon has caves. Could they become astronaut habitats? Scientists have discovered that parts of the pits are always about 63°F (17°C), differing from extreme temperatures at the Moon's surface". (NASA)
    Moon
    3/6 The surface temperatures on the Moon can go from an extremely high 127 degrees Celsius and as low as -173 degrees Celsius. "The pits, and caves to which they may lead, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas at the Moon's surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (about minus 173 C) at night,” NASA Moon tweeted further. (NASA)
    Moon
    4/6 First discovered in 2009, these lunar pits could potentially be used as location for a first Moon Base. Not only are the temperatures moderate, but these pits could also provide protection against cosmic rays, solar radiation and micrometeorites, according to NASA. (AP)
    LRO
    5/6 LRO Project Scientist Noah Petro of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said, “Lunar pits are a fascinating feature on the lunar surface. Knowing that they create a stable thermal environment helps us paint a picture of these unique lunar features and the prospect of one day exploring them.” (NASA)
    image caption
    6/6 The particular pit used to analyze the thermal properties by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was in an area of the Moon known as the Mare Tranquillitatis. It is 100-meters deep and as wide as a football field. According to scientists, the overhang of the pit is responsible for creating shadows on the Moon and maintaining a temperature of nearly 17 degrees Celsius at all times. (NASA)
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    The big mystery of the energy crisis of Jupiter has finally been explained by scientists and solar storms play a key role in it. (NASA)

    While all eyes are on the Moon as the NASA Artemis 1 spacecraft was successfully launched today after multiple delays, scientists have made a major breakthrough in understanding Jupiter's atmosphere and solving a mystery that has puzzled astronomers for decades. It turns out that the upper atmosphere of Jupiter is very hot at about 400 degrees Celsius. This is comparable to the temperature of the Earth's upper atmosphere. However, the gas giant is five times away from the Earth, which means there is no way it receives as much sunlight to maintain such a high temperature. This was the puzzle, which is also known as the energy crisis of Jupiter in academic circles. Read on to know how a group of scientists were able to solve it.

    According to a report by Business Insider, James O'Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was the one who solved the mystery along with his team. And it all began with one realization which was “Jupiter is five times farther from the sun than Earth, so it receives less than 4% the amount of heating by sunlight than Earth, so they shouldn't be similar at all”. He also added that under normal conditions, the temperature should be close to -100 degrees Celsius. 

    Solar storms at the heart of Jupiter's energy crisis

    The first clue to solve this mystery was found in 2017 when O'Donoghue noticed that Jupiter's north pole was sending heat waves southwards that encapsulated the entire planet. A deeper inspection revealed that the north pole of Jupiter was constantly being bombarded by electrically charged particles coming from the Sun.

    It turns out we, on Earth, are very familiar with these charged particles. We call them coronal mass ejections (CME) and they are what cause solar storms on our planet. Amazingly, it turns out similar solar storms were taking place on the gas giant and causing auroras to appear. But due to the lack of an insulation sheet in the upper atmosphere, this heat permeated the entire planet.

    Jupiter's aurora heated up the planet to unbearable temperatures of more than 300 degrees Celsius. And once the north pole became hot, it would transmit the heat towards the south. This would appear as if the entire planet was undergoing a giant heatwave. The heat waves went as far as 130,000 kilometers across the planet.

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    First Published Date: 16 Nov, 16:08 IST
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