Jupiter's northern and southern lights continue to dazzle — and puzzle — the scientists who study them, as highlighted in a new video from the Chandra X-ray Center.
The video briefly describes new science results announced this week, which showed that Jupiter's northern and southern lights are out of sync. Unlike the auroras on Earth, which mirror each other at the planet's poles, Jupiter's northern and southern lights behave differently at each pole. (You can read the full Space.com story describing the finding here.)
The discovery was made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory. (Jupiter is the only gas-giant planet in Earth's solar system with auroras that radiate in the X-ray range, according to a statement from the Chandra X-ray Center.) Jupiter's auroras were first observed by the Voyager 1 probe in 1979; researchers have also studied the planetary light show with the Hubble Space Telescope and, most recently, with the Juno spacecraft that is currently orbiting Jupiter. [X-ray Astronomy by the Chandra Observatory in Images]
Even after nearly 40 years of observations, scientists still don't fully understand how the auroras are created. But these space-based observations have made it possible for scientists to investigate this question — and capture stunning views in the process.
"In the future, scientists plan to combine data from Chandra, XMM-Newton and the Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter," according to the video. "They hope to reveal the source of this high-energy light show on the fifth planet from our sun."
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