Hidden Winds on Jupiter May Be Messing with Its Enormous Magnetic Field

Space.com | 5/26/2019 | Rafi Letzter
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Jupiter's magnetic field has changed since the 1970s, and physicists have proved it.

That's not exactly a surprise. Earth's magnetic field, the only planetary field for which we have good ongoing measurements, changes all the time. But the new information is important, because these small changes reveal hidden details of a planet's internal "dynamo," the system that produces its magnetic field.

Data - Map - Planet - Field - Spacecraft

They compared that data to a map of the planet's magnetic field produced by the spacecraft Juno, which conducted the most recent and most thorough probe of the giant planet. In 2016, Juno orbited very close to Jupiter, passing from pole to pole, gathering detailed gravitational and magnetic field data. That allowed researchers to develop a thorough model of the planet's magnetic field and some detailed theories as to how it's produced.

The researchers behind this paper showed that data from those four older probes, though more limited (each of them just swung by the planet once), didn't quite fit with the 2016 model of Jupiter's magnetic field.

Something - Minute - Changes - Something - Jupiter

"Finding something as minute as these changes in something so immense as Jupiter's magnetic field was a challenge," Kimee Moore, a Juno scientist at Harvard and lead author on the paper, said in a statement. "Having a baseline of close-up observations over four decades long provided us with just enough data to confirm that Jupiter's magnetic field does indeed change over time."

One challenge: The researchers were only interested in changes to Jupiter's internal magnetic field, but the planet also has magnetism coming from its upper atmosphere. Charged particles from volcanic eruptions on Io, Jupiter's most volatile moon, end up in the Jovian magnetosphere and ionosphere (a region of charged particles in the outer reaches of Jupiter's atmosphere) and can also change the magnetic field. But the researchers developed methods to subtract...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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