• Stephen Strum

Whoa, Jupiter has a third magnetic pole!

Updated: Feb 16, 2019

Jupiter has long been known to have a powerful magnetic field. The field harbors intense belts of radiation, similar to Earth's Van Allen belts, but far stronger, that could be very hazardous to space-traveling humans. In 2016 NASA's Juno spacecraft began studying Jupiter, including Jupiter's magnetic field. Now, a team of researchers led by Kimberly Moore of Harvard University have released some interesting data on Jupiter's magnetic field in the journal Nature: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0468-5

Unlike Earth which has a distinct North and South Pole, the magnetic field on Jupiter is highly complex. A well-defined pole is present in Jupiter's Southern Hemisphere, but the northern hemisphere has a broad magnetic pole and a third magnetic pole, indeed just a second South Pole, is present near the equator. Since Juno has just begun studying Jupiter, it is unclear if this is a regular or temporary state. It is possible the magnetic field is always highly complex, or perhaps it is just reversing or evolving into a new steady state. The magnetic field on the sun flips every solar cycle, and possibly large gas giants like Jupiter undergo a similar process. The video embedded above shows the complex nature of the magnetic field. It will be interesting to see how Jupiter's magnetic field evolves during the remaining years of Juno's study.

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