Ganymede, one of the 79 moons of Jupiter, is apparently releasing powerful electromagnetic waves that may be capable of inflicting serious damage on spacecraft that fly near it.
The discovery was made by scientists who were studying old data from Galileo, the probe that orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003.
Ganymede's Powerful Electromagnetic Waves
A study that will be published in the Nature Communications journal will discuss so-called chorus waves, or electromagnetic waves that are converted to sound which may cause polar lights and high-energy electrons that may damage spacecraft.
The research focuses on two of Jupiter's moons, namely Europa and Ganymede, and their electromagnetic field structures. The invisible magnetic fields around these two moons are powered by the magnetic field of Jupiter, which is about 20,000 times stronger than Earth's. This results in some sort of ultra-powerful particle accelerator, which is capable of damaging, and perhaps even destroying, spacecraft that pass by.
"This is a very interesting and fascinating finding," said Yuri Shprits, a scientist at Germany's GFZ Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, to Gizmodo. "Just by having an object with a magnetosphere in the radiation environment, you can produce such strong waves."
Shprits and his team analyzed the recordings that Galileo made of the chorus waves when orbiting Jupiter. Usually, the waves around Jupiter had amplitudes that were just a little higher than the magnetic fields produced by the human brain. However, when the probe flew by Ganymede, the waves spiked to a height of about a million times, to as strong as a magnetic field that is created by a typical kitchen microwave.
That might not appear like a lot, but Shprits compared the difference to the gap between a regular wave in the ocean and a tsunami. Knowing this, NASA and the ESA should consider protecting their spacecraft against the accelerated particles caused by the chorus waves.
The Moons Of Jupiter
Jupiter is a wonder in the solar system due to its status as the biggest planet, but its moons have shared in its spotlight.
Last month, the number of moons of Jupiter was increased to 79, after 10 more were confirmed. Of the 10 new moons, one of them, named Valetudo, stands out because it has a chance of colliding with the others.
The NASA Juno spacecraft has also been making significant contributions to scientists' understanding of Jupiter and its moons. Also in July, Juno discovered a secret volcano near the south pole of Io, and determined that its moons are leaving strange marks on Jupiter's aurora.