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Jupiter Animations
A Tour of Jupiter
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 02:39]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

On Earth, people at very high latitudes sometimes enjoy the spectacular light shows known as the auroras, also called the northern or southern lights. Our planet is not, however, the only world to experience auroras. For some time, scientists have observed high-energy auroras on Jupiter in the form of ultraviolet and X-ray light. A new study using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton shows that the auroras on Jupiter are significantly different than those on Earth. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter's auroras behave independently of one another at each pole. This is unlike Earth, where the northern and southern lights tend to mirror one another.

To understand how Jupiter produces its X-ray auroras, researchers plan to combine new and upcoming X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton with information from NASA's Juno mission, which is currently in orbit around the planet. If scientists can connect the X-ray activity with physical changes observed simultaneously with Juno, they may be able to determine the process that generates the Jovian auroras.

There are many questions this new X-ray study pose: how does Jupiter's magnetic field give particles the huge energies needed to make X-rays? Do these high-energy particles affect the Jovian weather and the chemical composition of its atmosphere? Can they explain the unusually high temperatures found in certain places in Jupiter's atmosphere? These are the questions that Chandra, XMM-Newton, and Juno may be able to help answer in the future.

A Quick Look at Jupiter
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 01:06]

A new study reveals the auroras — a.k.a. the northern or southern lights — on Jupiter behave mysteriously.

X-ray observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton showed something surprising.

Unlike on Earth, the auroras on Jupiter at each pole act independently of one another.

This is causing scientists to revisit their ideas for how Jupiter's auroras are generated.

In the future, scientists plan to combine data from Chandra, XMM-Newton, and the Juno spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Jupiter.

They hope this reveals the source of this high-energy light show on the fifth planet from our Sun.

Return to Jupiter (November 6, 2017)