Chandra examines Jupiter during new horizons approach

March 1, 2007
Chandra and Hubble Composite of Jupiter
In preparation for New Horizon's approach of Jupiter, Chandra took 5-hour exposures of Jupiter on Feb. 8, 10 and 24. In this new composite image, data from those separate Chandra's observations were combined, and then superimposed on the latest image of Jupiter from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SwRI/R.Gladstone et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/Boston Univ./J.Clarke & Hubble Heritage (AURA/STScI)

On February 28, 2007, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter on its ultimate journey to Pluto. This flyby gave scientists a unique opportunity to study Jupiter using the package of instruments available on New Horizons, while coordinating observations from both space- and ground-based telescopes including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

In preparation for New Horizon's approach of Jupiter, Chandra took 5-hour exposures of Jupiter on February 8, 10, and 24th. In this new composite image, data from those separate Chandra's observations were combined, and then superimposed on the latest image of Jupiter from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The purpose of the Chandra observations is to study the powerful X-ray aurorae observed near the poles of Jupiter. These are thought to be caused by the interaction of sulfur and oxygen ions in the outer regions of the Jovian magnetic field with particles flowing away from the Sun in the so-called solar wind. Scientists would like to better understand the details of this process, which produces aurorae up to a thousand times more powerful than similar aurorae seen on Earth.

Following closest approach on the 28th, Chandra will continue to observe Jupiter over the next few weeks. New Horizons will take an unusual trajectory past Jupiter that takes it directly down the so-called magnetic tail of the planet, a region where no spacecraft has gone before. The sulfur and oxygen particles that dominate Jupiter's magnetosphere and originate in Io's volcanoes are eventually lost down this magnetic tail. One goal of the Chandra observations is to see if any of the X-ray auroral emissions are related to this process.

By combining Chandra observations with the New Horizons data, plus ultraviolet information from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and FUSE satellite, and optical data from ground-based telescopes, astronomers hope to get a more complete picture of Jupiter's complicated system of particles and magnetic fields and energetic particles. In the weeks and months to come, astronomers will undertake detailed analysis of this bounty of data.

Source: Chandra X-ray Center

Explore further: Chandra probes high-voltage auroras on Jupiter

Related Stories

Chandra probes high-voltage auroras on Jupiter

March 2, 2005

Scientists have obtained new insight into the unique power source for many of Jupiter's auroras, the most spectacular and active auroras in the Solar System. Extended monitoring of the giant planet with NASA's Chandra X-ray ...

Chandra looks back at the Earth

December 29, 2005

In an unusual observation, a team of scientists has scanned the northern polar region of Earth with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The results show that the aurora borealis, or "northern lights," also dance in X-ray light, ...

Dark energy, black holes and exploding stars

August 12, 2004

On Aug. 12, 1999, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory opened its sunshade doors for the first time, allowing celestial X-ray light to reach the observatory's mirrors. This one small step for the observatory proved to be a giant ...

Chandra: Saturn Reflects Sun's X-Rays

May 25, 2005

When it comes to mysterious X-rays from Saturn, the ringed planet may act as a mirror, reflecting explosive activity from the sun, according to scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The findings stem from the ...

Recommended for you

Evidence found of white dwarf remnant after supernova

August 18, 2017

An international team of space scientists has found evidence of what they believe is a remnant of a type Iax supernova—a white dwarf moving in a way that suggests it was blown across part of the universe by the power of ...

Scientists improve brown dwarf weather forecasts

August 18, 2017

Dim objects called brown dwarfs, less massive than the sun but more massive than Jupiter, have powerful winds and clouds–specifically, hot patchy clouds made of iron droplets and silicate dust. Scientists recently realized ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.