April 9 (UPI) -- Solar wind-fueled polar auroras are heating up Jupiter's atmosphere to greater depths than previously estimated.
"The solar wind impact at Jupiter is an extreme example of space weather," James Sinclair, researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release. "We're seeing the solar wind having an effect deeper than is normally seen."
Auroras are created when gas particles in the upper atmosphere are excited by charged particles produced by the interactions between solar winds and a planet's magnetosphere.
By studying auroras and their influence on atmospheric dynamics, scientists can better understand how the atmospheres of different planets evolve.
Scientists used the Subaru Telescope, located on the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea, to observe the interactions between solar particles and Jupiter's upper atmosphere. The observations, including thermal images, showed solar winds and the resulting aurora have surprisingly expansive and penetrating impacts on Jupiter's atmosphere.
"What is startling about the results is that we were able to associate for the first time the variations in solar wind and the response in the stratosphere -- and that the response to these variations is so quick for such a large area," said JPL researcher Glenn Orton.
Scientists detailed their observations this week in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Less than 24 hours after the arrival of strong solar winds, researchers observed significant heating across a large swath of Jupiter's atmosphere. Scientists also measured chemical changes in the atmosphere.
"Such heating and chemical reactions may tell us something about other planets with harsh environments, and even early Earth," said Yasumasa Kasaba, a researcher at Tohoku University in Japan.
NASA scientists have previously used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Jupiter's auroras, which are some of the most energetic and dramatic in the solar system. Previous studies suggests the size of the powerful auroras are caused by some sort of "turbulent acceleration process."