NASA Makes New Discovery With 22-Year-Old Galileo Data From Ganymede – ExtremeTech

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Jupiter has a whopping 69 moons, and also you don’t hear quite a bit concerning the largest of them. It could not have the icy sheets of Europa or the geysers of Enceladus, however Ganymede is outstanding in its personal proper. In actual fact, it could be much more attention-grabbing than we thought. NASA researchers have gone over telemetry from a 1996 Ganymede flyby with a purpose to analyze some data that sat ignored all these years.

Ganymede is the most important moon of Jupiter, but when it had been orbiting the solar, we’d undoubtedly label it as a planet (no Pluto uncertainty right here). It’s the ninth largest object within the photo voltaic system if you happen to rely the solar — even larger than the planet Mercury. Astronomers additionally suppose Ganymede has a subsurface ocean that might comprise extra water than all of Earth’s oceans. An object this massive in orbit of Jupiter is sure to have some uncommon properties, and now we’re discovering out simply how uncommon.

On June 26, 1996, the Galileo spacecraft made its first of six flybys of Ganymede. This probe checked out a number of moons, in addition to Jupiter itself. It confirmed that Ganymede has a magnetic subject, which was a shock to the scientific neighborhood 22 years in the past. Nobody anticipated {that a} moon in orbit of a planet like Jupiter may have its personal magnetosphere. On Earth, our magnetic subject protects the floor from harsh photo voltaic radiation, and it’s unlikely life would exist on Earth with out it. On Ganymede, the magnetic subject is probably going a results of the moon’s shifting liquid iron core.

Galileo consists of an instrument referred to as the Plasma Subsystem (PLS), which it used to measure the density, movement, and temperature of plasma within the Jovian system. In some way, nobody took an in depth have a look at the PLS knowledge from Ganymede all these years, however now it’s revealed due to a examine led by NASA’s Glyn Collinson. The character of plasma (charged particles) round Ganymede can really inform us a terrific deal about its magnetic subject. 

Whereas the photo voltaic wind controls the form and depth of Earth’s magnetosphere, Ganymede is tucked away inside Jupiter’s magnetic subject. Thus, the movement of plasma round Jupiter bends Ganymede’s subject into an uncommon form. The examine describes Ganymede’s magnetosphere as a flattened horn form pointing within the course of its orbit. The waves of plasma may additionally clarify unusually brilliant auroras seen in Ganymede’s polar areas. These particles rain down on the poles, inflicting charged water molecules to shoot again up.

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Scientists additionally suspect that Ganymede’s subsurface ocean may play a job within the era of its magnetic subject. That power may additionally work together with Jupiter’s magnetosphere in unknown methods. There’s nonetheless extra evaluation to do with the PLS knowledge, however we must always have way more data on Ganymede in a number of years. The ESA plans to launch a mission referred to as JUICE to discover Jupiter’s moons in 2022.

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