Jovian Aurorae
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSFC/R.Elsner et al.; Illustration: CXC/M.Weiss

Crown of Jupiter

On earth, the northern and southern lights are beautiful sights to behold. The lights, or aurorae, are produced by charged particles from the sun which get trapped by the earth's magnetic field and get funnelled towards the north and south magnetic poles, where they interact with the atmosphere and produce spectacular dancing lights. Aurorae occur on other planets too. The image above left shows X-ray emission produced by auroral emission on Jupiter, as imaged by deep observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. In Jupiter's case, as shown by the illustration above right, aurorae are often produced by the interaction of charged particles spewed into space by Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. These particles are accelerated towards the Jovian poles by Jupiter's strong magnetic field, which generates intense electric fields of about 10 million volts.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT