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Jupiter’s X-ray Aurora Mystery Solved


Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Video imagery:

·  Jupiter with X-ray aurora: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCL/W.Dunn et al; Visible: NASA/STScI
·  Jupiter magnetosphere animation: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
·  Jupiter with aurora: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SwRI/R.Gladstone et al.; Visible: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (AURA/STScI)

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak, Joseph Olmsted
Science review: Dr. Emma Marcucci
Education review: Jim Manning
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Animation of the universe. Nebulas glow and star systems surround the top of Jupiter. Text, News from the universe.
Photo of Jupiter with X-ray auroras which glow purple at its poles.
Text, Jupiter's X-ray aurora mystery solved. July 26, 2021. Using data from multiple missions, scientists have uncovered the source of Jupiter's unusual X-ray auroras.

NASA's Juno spacecraft observed the chain of events. Jupiter's outer magnetic field is struck by charged particles from the Sun. Electrically charged atoms "surf" the magnetic field lines over millions of miles, emitting a traceable pulse.
Animation of pulse. Orange lines cross over a bright orange light.
Text, Minutes later, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton mission picks up a burst of X-rays as the atoms slam into Jupiter's atmosphere, creating the auroras. Over the course of a day, XXM-Newton saw the auroras pulse every 27 minutes, matching up with the observations by Juno.
Photo of Jupiter with X-ray auroras which glow purple at its poles.
Text, This news was brought to you in part by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.