Monday, September 5, 2016

On Aug. 27th, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew over the giant planet's south pole and photographed Jupiter's southern lights.  Juno's polar orbit revealed the astonishing vortex of infra-red light which has never before been seen.

Unlike Earth, which lights up in response to solar activity, Jupiter makes its own auroras. The power source is the giant planet's own rotation. Although Jupiter is ten times wider than Earth, it manages to spin around 2.5 times as fast as our little planet. As any freshman engineering student knows, if you spin a magnet you've got an electric generator. And Jupiter is a very big magnet. Induced electric fields accelerate particles toward Jupiter's poles where the aurora action takes place. Remarkably, many of the particles that rain down on Jupiter's poles appear to be ejecta from volcanoes on Io. How this complicated system actually works is a puzzle.

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