Home Science NASA finally unravels the mystery of 'dawn storm' auroras on Jupiter

NASA finally unravels the mystery of 'dawn storm' auroras on Jupiter

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In 1994, the NASA Hubble Space Telescope spotted auroral ”dawn storms” on both the Jovian poles in the planet’s morning. The storms are auroras, which produce stunning blue lights which almost encircle to poles of the planet.

Researchers had been baffled why these auroras appeared every morning on Jupiter, in both the north and the south.

However, NASA’s Juno probe, which was launched in 2011 and has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, now has the answer.

Using data from Juno’s Ultraviolet Spectograph instrument, scientists have been able to unravel the mystery of dawn storms on Jupiter.

NASA researchers found the storms first come to fruition on the nightside of Jupiter.

As the planet rotates, the dawn storms also rotate into the dayside of the planet, where the features of the aurora grow in brightness.

The increase in luminosity of the auroras suggests the “dawn storms are dumping at least 10 times more energy into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere than typical aurora”, according to NASA.

Zhonghua Yao, co-author of the study at the University of Liège, said: “When we looked at the whole dawn storm sequence, we couldn’t help but notice that they are very similar to a type of terrestrial auroras called substorms.”

Substorms on Earth are a result of small disturbances in our planet’s magnetosphere which releases high energy particles into the ionosphere – a level of the atmosphere.

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The new results will allow experts to understand better the differences and similarities which drive auroras on planets.

Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said: “The power that Jupiter possesses is amazing.

“The energy in these dawn aurorae is yet another example of how powerful this giant planet really is.

“The dawn storm revelations are another surprise from the Juno mission, which is constantly rewriting the book on how giant planet’s work.

“With NASA’s recent mission extension, we’re looking forward to many more new insights and discoveries.”



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