New discoveries about Jupiter’s magnetosphere | Science & Technology

New discoveries about Jupiter could lead to a better understanding of Earth’s own space environment and influence a long-running scientific debate about the solar system’s largest planet.

“By exploring a larger space such as Jupiter, we can better understand the fundamental physics governing Earth’s magnetosphere and thereby improve our space weather forecasting,” said Peter Delamere, a professor at the UAF Geophysical Institute and the UAF College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

“We are one big space weather event from losing communication satellites, our power grid assets, or both,” he said.

Space weather refers to disturbances in the Earth’s magnetosphere caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field. These are generally associated with solar storms and the sun’s coronal mass ejections, which can lead to magnetic fluctuations and disruptions in power grids, pipelines and communication systems.

Delamere and a team of co-authors detailed their findings about Jupiter’s magnetosphere in a recent paper in AGU Advances. Geophysical Institute research associate professor Peter Damiano, UAF graduate student researchers Austin Smith and Chynna Spitler, and former student Blake Mino are among the co-authors.

Delamere’s research shows that our solar system’s largest planet has a magnetosphere consisting of largely closed magnetic field lines at its polar regions but including a crescent-shaped area of open field lines. The magnetosphere is the shield that some planets have that deflects much of the solar wind.

The debate over open versus closed at the poles has raged for more than 40 years.

An open magnetosphere refers to a planet having some open-ended magnetic field lines near its poles. These are previously closed lines that have been broken apart by the solar wind and left to extend into space without re-entering the planet.

This creates regions on Jupiter where the solar wind, which carries some of the sun’s magnetic field…


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