New Discoveries on Jupiter: Uncovering Dark Matter Signals and Unexpected Atmospheric Structures

By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 27, 2024 09:00
New Discoveries On Jupiter Uncovering Dark Matter Signals And Unexpected Atmospheric Structures

Recent astronomical observations have unveiled two fascinating phenomena on Jupiter. Scientists have detected a mysterious glow on the night side of the planet, potentially signaling the presence of dark matter.

Additionally, new structures have been discovered in Jupiter's upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot, challenging previous assumptions about this region. These discoveries open new avenues for understanding the complexities of our solar system's largest planet.

A Glow on Jupiter's Night Side: Potential Dark Matter Evidence

Recent research has revealed an intriguing infrared glow on the night side of Jupiter, which could potentially be a smoking gun signal for the elusive dark matter. Dark matter, which makes up approximately 70-80% of all mass in the universe, has remained undetected despite its significant influence on the gravitational behavior of celestial bodies. This new study suggests that interactions with dark matter could produce an excess of trihydrogen cations (H3+) in Jupiter's atmosphere, detectable as an infrared glow.

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Physicists Carlos Blanco from Princeton University and Stockholm University, and Rebecca Leane from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, propose that dark matter particles, when captured by Jupiter's gravity, could annihilate each other, producing ionizing radiation. This process could lead to an unexpected abundance of H3+ ions, detectable by instruments such as the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) aboard the Cassini spacecraft, which flew past Jupiter over two decades ago.

"We point out that dark matter can produce an additional source of H3+ in planetary atmospheres," write Blanco and Leane. "This will be produced if dark matter scatters and is captured by planets, and consequently annihilates, producing ionizing radiation."

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Some Of The Processes That Produce Trihydrogen Cations In The Jovian Ionosphere.

Their findings suggest that future high-precision measurements of planetary spectra could further investigate dark matter's presence and behavior on other planets. "We have pointed out and shown for the first time that dark matter can produce ionizing radiation in planetary atmospheres, which is detectable through a smoking-gun excess of atmospheric trihydrogen cations," Blanco and Leane write. "Dark matter atmospheric ionization may be detected in Jovian exoplanets using future high-precision measurements of planetary spectra."

Unexpected Atmospheric Structures Above Jupiter's Great Red Spot

In another fascinating discovery, observations by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have uncovered peculiar structures in Jupiter's upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot, the planet's iconic storm. Previously considered uneventful, this region has now been shown to contain intricate patterns of dark arcs and bright spots visible in infrared.

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Infrared Jupiter L

Henrik Melin of the University of Leicester, who led the research team, stated, "We thought this region, perhaps naively, would be really boring. It is in fact just as interesting as the northern lights, if not more so. Jupiter never ceases to surprise." The source of this variation is not sunlight but rather the deeper, turbulent layers of the Jovian atmosphere.

The team suggests that gravity waves—similar to waves crashing on a beach—generated deep in Jupiter's atmosphere around the Great Red Spot could be responsible for these structures. "These waves are generated deep in the turbulent lower atmosphere, all around the Great Red Spot, and they can travel up in altitude, changing the structure and emissions of the upper atmosphere," Melin explained. Such gravity waves, though present on Earth, are significantly weaker compared to those on Jupiter.

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This discovery, part of the Early Release Science program (ERS) for JWST, aims to understand why the temperature above the Great Red Spot appeared high in previous observations. The new data provided different insights, and the team hopes to follow up with further observations to better understand this portion of the Jovian atmosphere. These findings will also aid planned observations for the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission, which will explore Jupiter and its three icy moons.


An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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