Jupiter’s mystery demystified

The giant planet Jupiter’s magnetic equator was thought of in a manner different than what has been found now. A dark ribbon made of weak hydrogen ion emission encircling the planet was observed by the team of scientists working at the University of Leicester. They found that emissions of H3+ were making a ribbon-like structure around the planet. These ribbons were spread across the equator and were seen using NSFCam instrument at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility. This is the first time, evidence of a localized ionospheric interaction is received spread across Jupiter's magnetic field.

When the ionosphere of the giant planet was studied, the focus was always on the poles and not the equator. Aurorae remained the sole point of discussion, but the observations made now reveal a different story. The ionosphere now seems to be interesting and complex. This ribbon appears to be resembling with the earth’s localized ribbons present near the magnetic equator of our planet.   

Ionosphere means the layer where there are ions. Here in this region, the collision of photoelectrons and H2 or H3+ ions is a common phenomenon. The electrons in the dark ribbon travel around the magnetic field and are diverted towards a higher latitude. During this shift, a fabric of H3 is made. Juno the satellite sent to Jupiter to study its atmosphere supports this theory.  

Dr. Tom Stallard, Associate Professor in Planetary Astronomy from the University of Leicester, who is also a leading author in the genre of space said that when the ribbon was noticed for the first time, he knew there was something special at Jupiter. Though the result of the research was clear, everybody was surprised and shocked by this fantastic feature created near the magnetic equator. It was a great relief for the team to find such an exceptional piece of information. The observations made by Juno depicted the complexities of Jupiter’s auroral regions. Earlier models could not give such a distinct view. The resemblances of the ribbons with those of earth have suggested a distortion that might be present on the Jupiter’s magnetic equator rather than simplifying the idea. More information will be gathered to solve the complexities and formulate a hypothesis. The research also offered information about the great cold spot present on Jupiter. It is a dark region which might also be created because of the magnetic field of the planet. The aurorae allow the flow of energy into the atmosphere of the earth in the form of heat. It creates an extremely cold thermosphere as explained in previous researches.