No, that’s not a faraway alien world you’re looking at. That’s an infrared image of Jupiter and its poles, courtesy of NASA.
NASA’s JPL has released images of the gas giant showing the impact that solar winds are having on the planet’s poles, which are causing a hotter atmosphere than previously thought.
“The solar wind impact at Jupiter is an extreme example of space weather,” said NASA JPL’s James Sinclair, who led new research published April 8 in Nature Astronomy, in a statement. “We’re seeing the solar wind having an effect deeper than is normally seen.”
Similar to the auroras on Earth’s poles (the aurora borealis and aurora australis), energy particles from the sun interact with the heat in the gases of the atmosphere on Jupiter. But it’s the level of activity and how deep it is going, extending into the stratosphere, that is surprising scientists.
“What is startling about the results is that we were able to associate for the first time the variations in solar wind and the response in the stratosphere — and that the response to these variations is so quick for such a large area,” said JPL’s Glenn Orton, co-author and part of the observing team, in the statement.
The researchers found that a day after the solar wind hit the planet, the chemistry in its atmosphere changed and the temperature rose. The scientists used the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and recorded the images using the telescope’s Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectograph.
The researchers hope to understand how the solar winds from the sun impact other planets environments, as well as our own.
“Such heating and chemical reactions may tell us something about other planets with harsh environments and even early Earth,” said Yasumasa Kasaba in the statement.