Solar activity sparks powerful X-ray aurorae on Jupiter

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According to a new study, solar activity can prompt a huge increase in the intensity of Jupiter’s polar aurorae. An impressive light show was created on Jupiter in October 2011 by charged particles from a powerful solar storm.

Jupiter’s aurorae differ from others because they are more powerful and are capable of being generated by Jupiter without any outside influence. As the gas giant spins on its axis roughly once every 10 hours, Jupiter drags its magnetic field with it. This process created charge particles that interact with the planet’s atmosphere to create constant aurorae.

The new study has revealed that alongside these factors, powerful solar activity can act as the catalyst for significant X-ray aurorae. As powerful solar storms, intensify the solar winds pervading the solar system, they interact with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

The research shows that the winds have the ability to shift the boundary of the Jupiter’s magnetosphere back by as much as a million miles, creating a stunning X-ray aurora in the process that is observable by the powerful X-ray capabilities of NASA’s Chandra telescope. In the case of the October 2011 event, solar activity was seen to elevate the intensity of Jupiter’s aurorae up to eight times their usual levels.

The image above shows a composite utilizing X-ray data collected by the Chandra telescope overlayed onto an optical light image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope. The images were captured as the storm arrived at Jupiter (left), and two days later (right) as Jupiter’s magnetosphere returned to normal over two 11-hour observation periods.

Get the full story here.

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