Simply put, the stronger the magnetic field, the bigger the magnetosphere. Jupiter’s magnetic field is some 20,000 times more powerful than Earth’s. Its magnetosphere is so large, it clashes with the solar wind millions of miles before the wind even reaches the gas giant.
At the point where the supersonic solar wind collides with Jupiter’s magnetic field, the wind is rapidly heated and slowed, creating something called a bow shock, which astrophysicist William Kurth compares to a sonic boom. Kurth co-leads Juno’s Waves investigation, which just released a short video and eerie audio of the event.
“The solar wind blows past all the planets at a speed of about a million miles per hour, and where it hits an obstacle, there’s all this turbulence,” Kurth said in a press release. The obstacle — Jupiter’s magnetosphere — is the biggest single structure in our solar system. If we could see the structure with the naked eye, it would be twice the size of the moon, despite being hundreds of millions of miles further away.
The Waves chart and audio begins with the subtle plasma oscillations that Juno detected in the hour before encountering the bow shock. The drastic and dramatic change in frequency depicts the collision of two tremendous forces.
- Jupiter’s vast magnetic field stretches over time, driven by atmospheric wind
- Stellar wind plays a key role in heating Jupiter’s atmosphere
- Things are heating up as Parker Solar Probe makes second flyby of the Sun
- Predicting space weather to protect spacecraft from killer electrons
- Unfriendly exoplanet is stormy, blistering hot, and full of carbon monoxide