Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede is generating "killer" waves of electrons that astronomers say could damage spacecraft going on future missions.
These electromagnetic waves can be found all around our solar system and can even be heard at all times. They are a special type of radio wave occurring at very low frequencies and when converted to sound, they are said to replicate the singing and chirping of birds. This is why they are referred to as "chorus waves".
However, a team of researchers, led by Professor Yuri Shprits of German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) and the University of Potsdam, have recorded a stream of super powerful chorus waves coming from Jupiter's moon Ganymede, which are "a million times more intense" than the average around these planets.
Using a systematic study on Jupiter's wave environment taken from the Galileo Probe spacecraft to capture the recordings, the scientists also found waves a 100 times more intense near another of the planet's moon, Europa.
"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," said Shprits.
Unlike the Earth, Ganymede and Europa orbit inside the giant magnetic field of Jupiter and the authors believe this is one of the key factors powering the waves. Jupiter's magnetic field is the largest in the solar system, and some 20,000 times stronger than the Earth's.
"Chorus waves have been detected in space around the Earth but they are nowhere near as strong as the waves at Jupiter," added Professor Richard Horne of the British Antarctic Survey, who is a co-author on the study.
"Even if a 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."
At the Earth, chorus waves play a major role in producing high-energy "killer" electrons that can damage spacecraft. The new observations have made the scientists think whether they can do the same at Jupiter.
Nevertheless, the astronomers believe their study will provide very important observational constraints for future theoretical studies to quantify the massive increase in wave power.
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