NASA Finding: Jupiter has an extra magnetic pole

Unique in the solar system, scientists consider the possibility that we are catching Jupiter in the middle of a magnetic reversal

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has discovered something extraordinary about Jupiter. There is an extra magnetic pole near the giant planet’s equator, dubbed “The Great Blue Spot” by researchers who identified it. Jupiter’s unexpected magnetic morphology is a sign that strange things may be happening deep beneath the cloudtops.

When NASA’s Juno spacecraft reached Jupiter in 2016, planetary scientists were eager to learn more about the giant planet’s magnetic field. Juno would fly over both of Jupiter’s poles, skimming just 4000 km above the cloudtops for measurements at point-blank range. Today in the journal Nature, a team of researchers led by Kimberly Moore of Harvard University announced new results from Juno–and they are weird. Among the findings: Jupiter has an extra magnetic pole.


Above: Jupiter’s magnetic field lines. (a) north polar view; (b) south polar view; (c) equatorial view

“We find that Jupiter’s magnetic field is different from all other known planetary magnetic fields,” the researchers wrote in the introduction to their paper.

The best way to appreciate the strangeness of Jupiter’s magnetic field is by comparison to Earth. Our planet has two well-defined magnetic poles–one in each hemisphere. This is normal. Jupiter’s southern hemisphere looks normal, too. It has a single magnetic pole located near the planet’s spin axis.

Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, however, is something else. The north magnetic pole is smeared into a swirl, which some writers have likened to a “ponytail.” And there is a second south pole located near the equator. The researchers have dubbed this extra pole “The Great Blue Spot” because it appears blue in their false-color images of magnetic polarity..

In their Nature article, the scientists consider the possibility that we are catching Jupiter in the middle of a magnetic reversal–an unsettled situation with temporary poles popping up in strange places. However, they favor the idea that Jupiter’s inner magnetic dynamo is simply unlike that of other planets. Deep within Jupiter, they posit, liquid metallic hydrogen mixes with partially dissolved rock and ice to create strange electrical currents, giving rise to an equally strange magnetic field.

More clues could be in the offing as Juno continues to orbit Jupiter until 2021.  Changes to Jupiter’s magnetic structure, for instance, might reveal that a reversal is underway or, conversely, that the extra pole is stable.


75 thoughts on “NASA Finding: Jupiter has an extra magnetic pole

  1. What are the conditions at which hydrogen exists in a liquid metallic phase? I wonder.

    Apparently the pressure is about 450 GPa, which I think is about 65 million psi, and apparently the existence of metallic hydrogen within Jupiter’s core has been speculated for a long time. Very interesting, and apparently at high pressure like this, hydrogen is able to exist in the liquid metallic phase at even high temperature.

  2. Terrible! This just shows that having a monopoly or a dominant position in mass means you can steal extra magnetic poles from others. We must demand equal justice for all planets and force big, bad Jupiter to stop abusing its size and give up the extra pole. Jupiter must be held accountable and I believe must be called before a Congressional committee to explain how it can rationalize maintaining its monopolistic grasp on size to unfairly control more than its fair share of magnetic poles.

    • On the contrary! By establishing a second magnetic pole in its Southern Hemisphere Jupiter is exhibiting support for magnetic diversity and both positive and negative discrimination. It has stood up to the capitalist big business Polar establishment, and branched out in a new direction. As a Woke planet, Jupiter deserves our support and I will be setting up a ‘FundMe’ page for donations to enable Jupiter’s second spot to obtain clean clothes, a house and a job…

      • This is being sizeist and a terrible way for astronomy to carry on – we must insist all planets are equal regardless of diametric considerations, orbits and proto-colonialist ambitions from imperialists thwarted from further adventurism on Earth. We should convene an international conference under the auspices of the UN to plan compensation for discriminated against planets, preferably at the expense of the USA.

      • Right on Dodgy! Dan doesn’t realize the Jupitoreans might be undergoing some kind of LBGTQ transition and it shows up as a temporary tri-polar condition.

        • There is no call to start using derogatory terms like Jupitoreans – please stick to the names that the Jovians use for themselves!

        • I must agree. Just because someone inhabits a CIS polar planet, doesn’t give them the right to use derogatory terms like “unusual” when referring to multi polar worlds. A planet can have as many poles as it self identifies with.

        • Excusee mee, but the ALL CAPS initialization that you used is incorrect.
          It is not LBGTQ regarding Jupiter.
          It is Bloated Gigantic Lopsided Quizzically Jovian Gasometry or BGLQJG.
          Please use the correct ALL CAPsization when referring to Jupiter’s mass and magnetic personality.
          Thank you..
          – – – – Sara (Local Jovial=Earth Relations Rep or LoJoEarReLatRep)

        • The University of Toronto insists that faculty use gender-appropriate language and especially suitable pronouns for this three-pole planet – we suggest “jis” and “jer”.

          Safe spaces will be provided for Jovians and any hostile acts, such as suggesting that “jis or jer” third pole is a “Devil Mark”, and the use of pejorative terms such as “triple pole” and “triple nipple” will result in termination.

  3. The best way to appreciate the strangeness of Jupiter’s magnetic field is by comparison to Earth. Our planet has two well-defined magnetic poles–one in each hemisphere. This is normal.
    Actually, the Earth has four magnetic poles as discovered by Hansteen in 1819. Two of them are weaker than the other two, thus leading to a dominant dipole.

    • Hansteen proposed the theory that the earth has two magnetic axis and therefore four magnetic poles. He based this theory on the report that the magnetic needle of a compass pointed to two different points in both northern and southern hemispheres, but only when you are at high latitudes, otherwise the magnetic needle pointed at a point intermediate to the poles. This is not posible as magnetic lines of force do not cross, the stronger field pushed against and deforms the weaker field, so never would a compass magnetic needle point at an intermediate point.

      I showed this to a group of geologists when they questioned me about a large magnetite tactite mass not showing up on a draped magnetic survey. We removed a large chunk of the magnetite, with a geographic north arrow, moved it away, set it down, and I lowered my compass down onto it. At about 10 inches above the magnetite chunk the compass needle swung around so that the normally north end pointed south, ie, the magnetite mass was reversely polarized.

    • Wow that from leif that science junk game by how you define a pole. It is like taking a laminated steel electro-magnet and assigning poles to every lamination. It is technically true but complete pointless rubbish.

      Hell lets just say there are billions of poles one for every magnetic entity on the planet some of them more aligned than others 🙂

      • The magnetic field is generated in the deep interior, i.e. some distance from the surface where we observe it. The strength of the smaller dipolar elements falls of as the inverse cube of the distance from them. Therefore only largest scales will survive, i.e. the main dipolar and perhaps a weaker quadrupole, combining into the observed multi-polar field. This is well-known (since Gauss in the 1830s).

        • As I said so is the poles on a laminated transformer or the pole on every magnetic atom on the planet but the answer is still complete garbage in context. Deal with the context please.

          • quote => “Actually, the Earth has four magnetic poles as discovered by Hansteen in 1819”

            He didn’t discover them he theorized them .. infact the modern interpretation requires there be a very large series.

            That is what I am getting at you are playing games with that.

          • Note the wording “MODEL” now show me the actual observation

            hey I am willing to be swayed by evidence this isn’t my area but what you are saying is not my understanding.

            Again we suspected gravity waves existed long before they were ever actually detected. I am not doubting the theory just the detected part.

          • Yes it’s a belief in the theory, I agree but we need to take care with these things. My background is QM and in your area of expertise the sun mechanics I know for example that Quantum Tunneling is the only explaination for how you can get ignition of a sun. I trust it because I believe in QM as a framework but I would never claim we have detected it just because all our superficial measurements match with theory.

            In the same way it was theorized gravity waves existed but it took years of hard work for them to be observed.

            Matching a pattern is easy we do it all the time, finding a unique fingerprint that proves that this and only this explains the pattern is far more difficult.

          • Quantum Tunneling is the only explanation for how you can get ignition of a sun. I trust it because I believe in QM as a framework but I would never claim we have detected it just because all our superficial measurements match with theory.
            I trust it because we have directly observed the neutrino flux resulting from the fusion caused by said Quantum Tunneling.

          • With the stroke of a pen Leif declares there is no new physics in the sun core and it is just so. Not even all the authors of the standard sun model or the standard model itself were that brave 🙂

          • Sorry Leif I can’t take you seriously, you are a one man self professed nutter. I have nothing more to discuss with you.

          • Says the nutcase that believes he can just extend the standard model of physics and deem he knows. You a nutcase and pseudoscience whacky and I guess the norm for Climate Science. I don’t do discussions with science crazies it is a waste of time.

          • Describing the solar core does not require any extension of the standard model of physics. That model, as it is, very nicely accounts for the observed neutrino flux and for the structure [density, temperature] observed with helioseismology. That you don’t know that is your loss. Even ignorant people can still be civil, but here you fail again.

          • Nuetrino oscillations are not part of the standard model never have been and any physics undergrad knows that. The 2015 nobel prize was given out for this and hell it’s in dam wikipedia for gods sake

            So your nicely matching neutrino flux doesn’t meet the Standard model in it’s current form something someone in your field surely knows.

            So you may have a pretty pattern match but it fails the current most successful framework we have 🙂

          • The ‘standard model’ is extended all the time to incorporate the latest experimental data. This can be achieved E.g. by adding a non-renormalizable interaction of leptons with the Higgs boson.

            But this is not really important as the neutrino fluxes are observed and are what are expected from the fusion process. This shows that the ‘standard SOLAR model’ works very well.

          • I love it … “The ‘standard model’ is extended all the time to incorporate the latest experimental data.” I really love the “all the time” … you really are a layman at this stuff , I am wasting my time and you are out of your depth.

            What I can assure you is we don’t just change the standard model it is extremely difficult to change. The problem with neutrino oscillations is that it is difficult to add them in even from a quick read of the last section of the wiki article it should have made it clear even to you. So likely it needs something beyond the standard model, it has been added to a very small list of violations of the standard model that will likely require new a model.

          • Well, the standard model has already been extended to allow neutrino oscillations and masses. e.g. by the ‘seesaw mechanism’ which is a generic model used to understand the relative sizes of observed neutrino masses. There are several types of models, each extending the Standard Model.
            But that is really irrelevant for the issue at hand as the requisite neutrino fluxes from the fusion in the solar core have been directly observed, which is why I , as I said, believe that fusion takes place there. I prefer to be guided by observations, rather than models.

          • The standard model has not been extended to include the seesaw mechanism it doesn’t work, you can’t even read it seems. The standard model hasn’t been changed in 30 years you fool because it is so god dam hard to change without breaking something else.

            Try reading several ideas proposed none of them really work … got it .. that is why all anyone can put up is a GENERIC MODEL … not hard even for laymen to understand. They sort of guess this is how it might work because it gives right answers but it breaks other stuff.

            So now you might actually do a search for what is the problem with type 1 extensions to the standard model .. AKA what does it break and the answer is a lot.

            One of the things it breaks directly effects your area because it would change the mixing angle .. given we have measured and given a Nobel prize for doing it there is an immediate problem.

            It’s clear you have absolutely zero modern physics background because this is all kiddie stuff and you are clearly a layman. You keep trying to make assertions you know this area all the while making more and more layman crazy statements.

          • given we have measured and given a Nobel prize for doing it there is an immediate problem.
            Given that solar physics is my field, I would be interested in why you think there is a problem with the observed neutrino flux. If you don’t know of any, then at least explain why you think that the hundreds of proposed extensions to the standard [30-yr old] model all miss the mark. Obviously the people who propose the extensions don’t think so. Now, it is possible that by ‘new physics’ you mean anything discovered in the last 30-40 years. In my book that is much too narrow-minded, but I realize that the spectrum of people is very wide ranging between crazies at both ends.

  4. Illustrating yet again why we must ‘go into the field’ and take direct measurement data to truly develop an accurate understanding of our (solar system) environment. Computer models, without data driven calibration and certification, are just expressions of human imagination.

      • No, actually, it is not. The images were created by visualization software, but using real data collected by the Juno probe. This software is slightly more complex than a simple graphing package, but that’s basically what it is. Completely different from the atmospheric models used to “project” global temperatures into the future.

      • Bill,

        From the 1st line of the technical paper linked in the article above:
        “The Juno spacecraft, which is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, is providing direct measurements of the planet’s magnetic field close to its surface[1]. “
        Perhaps it’s time you started ‘looking’ (eg. reading and comprehending)…. before you leap into the comments?

        Serendipitously, your transparently false comment has provided yet another from-the-field data point reinforcing healthy skepticism of dogmatic adherence to ‘climate change’ non-science, be it terrestrial or jovian.

        From my engineering R&D, production, and failure analysis background:
        Direct Measurement of Reality Rules!
        Uncertified Computer Models Deceive Fools!

    • I hope so–it could be a modern answer to the Children’s Crusade, with a Bear as mascot. It may be larger than a hundred acres, though.

  5. I have been reading for a while now about signs that Earth’s poles may be getting ready to switch. Could the two planets be synchronized somehow?

  6. Has there been any data release on the charged particle environment (type, density, energy profile) as this fly-by was made? Given what has been speculated, I’m surprised the spacecraft survived.

    • That is true of any magnetized object that isn’t perfectly symmetrical or evenly magnetized. Surely at school you did the iron filings with a horse shoe magent 🙂

  7. I enjoy this site tremendously. Not only am I learning new information about the magnetic fields of our planet and our neighbors; I am also laughing at the comments trolling our current crazy politicized science. Thank you all for a great read

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