'Extraordinary' waves spotted coming out of Jupiter's moon Ganymede, scientists reveal

Electromagnetic activity a million times more intense than on Earth

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 07 August 2018 09:40
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Video of Jupiter's Moon Ganymede based on images from NASA's Galileo orbiter

Scientists have spotted "extraordinary", intense waves coming out of Jupiter's moon Ganymede.

The "chorus waves" are a million times more powerful than they are on Earth, and could have disastrous effects on spacecraft.

On Earth, listening to electromagnetic waves around the planet is something like the soft chirping of birds in the morning, which gives chorus waves their name. They can cause spectacular polar lights but can also create "killer" electrons that can damage spacecraft.

The scientists spotted waves around Jupiter's moon that are a million times more powerful than they are down on our planet, and yet more that are 100 times more intense around Europa.

The discovery was made using the Galileo Probe spacecraft, which undertook a comprehensive survey of Jupiter's wave environment.

"It's a really surprising and puzzling observation showing that a moon with a magnetic field can create such a tremendous intensification in the power of waves", says the lead author of the study Yuri Shprits.

The waves appear to be partly caused by the intense magnetic field of Jupiter, which is the solar system's strongest and 20,000 times more powerful than on Earth.

"Chorus waves have been detected in space around the Earth but they are nowhere near as strong as the waves at Jupiter" says Richard Horne of British Antarctic Survey who is a co-author on the study. "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".

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