A team led by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) found that NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter regularly encounters giant swirling waves at the boundary between in the solar wind and Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Waves are an important process in the transfer of energy and mass from the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun, to the planetary space environment.
Jake Montgomery, a doctoral student in the joint space physics program between UTSA and SwRI, noted that these phenomena occur when a large velocity difference forms across the boundary between the two regions of space. . This creates a swirling wave, or vortex, at the interface that separates the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind, known as the magnetopause. These Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are invisible to the naked eye but can be detected by instruments that observe plasma and magnetic fields in space. Plasma—a fundamental state of matter composed of charged particles, ions and electrons—is ubiquitous throughout the universe.
“Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities are a fundamental physical process that occurs when the solar and stellar winds interact with the magnetic fields of planets in our solar system and throughout the universe,” Montgomery said. . “Juno has observed these waves over several of its orbits, providing strong evidence that Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities play an active role in the interaction between the solar wind and Jupiter.”
Montgomery is the lead author of a study published in Geophysical Research Letters which uses data from several instruments on Juno, including its magnetometer and the SwRI-built Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE).
“Juno’s extensive time near Jupiter’s magnetopause enabled detailed observations of phenomena such as Kelvin-Helmholtz anomalies in this region,” said Dr. Robert Ebert, a staff scientist at SwRI who also serves as an associate professor at UTSA. “This interaction with the solar wind is important because it can transport plasma and energy across the magnetopause, into Jupiter’s magnetosphere, driving activity within that system.”
J. Montgomery et al, Investigating the Occurrence of Kelvin-Helmholtz Instabilities at Jupiter’s Dawn Magnetopause, Geophysical Research Letters (2023). DOI: 10.1029/2023GL102921
Provided by the Southwest Research Institute
Citation: Research team identifies giant swirling waves at the edge of Jupiter’s magnetosphere (2023, July 17) retrieved July 17, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-team -giant-swirling-edge-jupiter.html
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