Jupiter’s moons create invisible ‘killer’ waves that could destroy spacecraft


In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers describe the incredible electromagnetic field structure around two of Jupiter’s moons: Europa and Ganymede. The invisible magnetic fields around these bodies is being powered by Jupiter’s own magnetic field, and the result is an ultra-powerful particle accelerator of sorts, which might be capable of seriously damaging or even destroying a spacecraft.

“Chorus waves” are low-frequency electromagnetic waves that occur naturally around planets, including Earth. Near our planet they’re mostly harmless, but they do have the capability to produce extremely fast-moving “killer” particles that could cause damage to manmade technology if we happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jupiter’s magnetic field is many thousand times larger than the Earth’s, and that means that moons like Europa and Ganymede actually orbit within their host’s magnetic field while also producing their own. This results in chorus waves that are incredibly strong, and scientists now believe that the Ganymede is surrounded by waves a million times more intense than anything we’ve seen on Earth. The skies around Europa host waves that are “only” around 100 times more intense.

“Chorus waves have been detected in space around the Earth but they are nowhere near as strong as the waves at Jupiter” Professor Richard Horne, co-author of the work, explains. “Even if small portion of these waves escapes the immediate vicinity of Ganymede, they will be capable of accelerating particles to very high energies and ultimately producing very fast electrons inside Jupiter’s magnetic field”.- READ MORE


Astronomers oftentimes have to look very, very carefully for something that they believe exists in a certain spot in space. Whether that be an exoplanet orbiting a distant star or perhaps a still-unseen planet lurking at the edge of the Solar System, it’s a challenging endeavor. But every so often, the planets seem to align (no pun intended) and a new discovery just falls right into their laps.

That seems to be what happened to astronomers working at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, where a planned survey of trans-neptunian objects was interrupted by Jupiter. The massive gas giant began muscling in on the telescope’s line of sight, and in doing so, revealed a few secrets of its own.

Rather than delay their work, the researchers decided to pivot to studying moons of Jupiter which had flown into their gaze. In doing so, the scientists noticed not one, not two, but a full 12 totally new moons whose orbits hadn’t yet been documented, bringing the total number of the planet’s moons up to a whopping 79.

The scientists note that they were able to discover these new moons thanks to the lower detection threshold of the telescope. “We were able to go a little bit fainter than anyone has been able to go in the past,” Scott Sheppard of Carnegie Institution for Science told the Washington Post, “That’s why we were able to find these new moons.” – READ MORE

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