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An infrared image of Jupiter's southern aurora from NASA's Juno spacecraft. Photo: NASA / JPL / Caltech / SwRI / ASI / INAF / JIRAM

Scientists report today they've detected X-ray auroras on Jupiter's southern pole that, unlike Earth's synchronized Northern and Southern Lights, behave independently from their northern counterparts. Exactly how the planet's magnetic field produce its powerful auroras is unknown.

The big picture: Aurora-producing magnetic fields protect life on Earth's surface so scientists want to be able to recognize their various features and processes as they search for places that could harbor life, study co-author William Dunn from University of College London told the Verge.

How they saw it: Using data collected in 2007 and 2016 from two space-based observatories that could see both poles at the same, William Dunn and his colleagues at University College London found Jupiter's southern aurora pulsed every 9-11 minutes whereas the northern one was inconsistent — it flared every 12, 26 or 40-45 minutes — and with varying brightness.

On Earth auroras form when charged particles in the solar wind get pushed to the planet's poles by the magnetic field. There, the particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and emit photons that we see as the Northern and Southern Lights. (There are also auroras in infrared light, ultraviolet light and X-ray that we can't see.) Earth's auroras brighten and dim together as the charged particles are pushed to each pole. Unexpectedly, Jupiter's auroras aren't in such unison.

Why it happens: Unclear but one possibility the researchers propose is that when the solar wind hits Jupiter's large and strong magnetic field, the lines vibrate and produce waves. Charged particles — some of which come from volcanic eruptions on Jupiter's moon Io and others from the solar wind — may ride those waves to the poles and collide with the atmosphere in X-ray producing pulses.

What's next: NASA's Juno spacecraft is orbiting Jupiter and sending data about the planet's magnetosphere. Researchers plan to combine that with X-ray observations to see how the aurora are connected to what is happening on the planet and whether the behavior they saw is common or an exception.

Go deeper

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Gen Z breaks into VC

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Meagan Loyst joined VC firm Lerer Hippeau, less than two years out of Boston College, she was still living with her parents. She had virtually no online brand presence, and the pandemic made it impossible to build a professional network via in-person meetings.

Why it matters: Loyst wasn't alone. Venture firms have accelerated hiring in line with record deal activity, often seeking younger investors who can spot trends that fly below the radar (or intrinsic understanding) of older partners.

White House aims to protect workers from extreme heat

Two pear pickers in Hood River, Ore. on Aug. 13. Photo: Michael Hanson/AFP via Getty Images

The White House announced a slew of actions Monday, including the start of a rule-making process at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to protect American workers from extreme heat.

Driving the news: The U.S. just had its hottest summer on record, with triple-digit-temperatures killing hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and exposing outdoor workers to dangerous conditions.