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Jupiter’s magnetosphere ‘acts like an enormous particle accelerator’

Jupiter is a planet with some notable quirks. In addition to its visually distinctive look, together with beautiful bands of clouds and the large storm which types the Nice Pink Spot, it is usually recognized to present off X-rays.

Nonetheless, there are oddities concerning the X-rays it produces, that are associated to its auroras. There’s an open query about why the Ulysses mission, which flew previous Jupiter in 1992, didn’t detect any X-rays. Now, a brand new paper utilizing NASA’s NuSTAR observatory has solved this long-term thriller.

Jupiter’s southern hemisphere is proven on this picture from NASA’s Juno mission. New observations by NASA’s NuSTAR reveal that auroras close to each the planet’s poles emit high-energy X-rays, that are produced when accelerated particles collide with Jupiter’s environment. Enhanced picture by Kevin M. Gill (CC-BY) primarily based on pictures supplied courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

NuSTAR is a space-based X-ray telescope launched in 2012, which detects high-energy X-rays that are extra energetic than the sorts of X-rays usually detected by different X-ray observatories like Chandra. By investigating Jupiter with NuSTAR, researchers had been capable of see the highest-energy gentle ever detected from Jupiter, even greater power than the planet’s X-ray auroras.

“It’s fairly difficult for planets to generate X-rays within the vary that NuSTAR detects,” mentioned lead writer of the examine, Kaya Mori, in a statement. “However Jupiter has an unlimited magnetic subject, and it’s spinning in a short time. These two traits imply that the planet’s magnetosphere acts like an enormous particle accelerator, and that’s what makes these higher-energy emissions attainable.”

This mechanism may also clarify why the Ulysses mission didn’t spot any high-energy X-rays throughout its flyby. The actual kind of emissions brought on by the interactions of electrons within the environment are vibrant at solely a selected power stage and would have been too faint for Ulysses to identify.

Despite the fact that this thriller is solved, there are nonetheless many questions on how these emissions are fashioned. “The invention of those emissions doesn’t shut the case; it’s opening a brand new chapter,” mentioned co-author William Dunn. “We nonetheless have so many questions on these emissions and their sources. We all know that rotating magnetic fields can speed up particles, however we don’t totally perceive how they attain such excessive speeds at Jupiter. What basic processes naturally produce such energetic particles?”

The analysis is revealed within the journal Nature Astronomy.

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