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sheer magnetism
September 5, 2018

Each planet in our solar system has its own weird quirk — Venus' poisonous atmosphere, Saturn's rings, or Mars' potential to harbor human life. In a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists have discovered something strange about Jupiter as well.

Jupiter, like Earth, has a magnetic field. But unlike Earth's, Jupiter's magnetic field isn't relatively symmetrical. Instead, its northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere have magnetic fields that look nothing alike, Gizmodo reported. Where Earth's magnetic field points pretty much straight up and down, like a bar magnet, Jupiter's magnetic field is more like "someone took a bar magnet, bent it in half, and splayed it at both ends," Science News explained.

"It's a baffling puzzle," said the study's lead author, Harvard Ph.D. student Kimberly Moore. But it might have something to do with the different compositions of Earth and Jupiter. On Earth, the magnetic field is created by the liquid iron that composes part of our planet's core — but we have no idea what Jupiter's core is made of, or if it has anything to do with the planet's magnetic field. Instead, scientists theorize that Jupiter's magnetic field is caused by the presence of metallic hydrogen among its gaseous structure, Sky & Telescope reported.

Scientists still don't know for sure what's causing the strange unevenness of Jupiter's magnetic field, or why it's "so complicated in the northern hemisphere but so simple in the southern hemisphere," Moore said. But they theorize that varying concentrations of this metallic hydrogen might be the underlying cause.

NASA's Juno orbiter, which collected the data used in this study, will continue to monitor the gas giant until 2022. Read more about the project at Gizmodo. Shivani Ishwar

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