This image shows Jupiter’s magnetic fields at one point in time.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard/Moore et al.)
The magnetic field of Jupiter has changed since the 1970s, and physicists have proven.
That’s not really a surprise. Magnetic field of the earth, the only planetary field for which we have a good current measurement, it changes all the time. But the new information is important, because these small changes, the hidden details of a planet’s internal “dynamo”, the system produces the magnetic field.
In a paper published May 20 in the journal Nature, Astronomy, a team of researchers looked at the magnetic field data from four previous missions to Jupiter (Pioneer 10 reached Jupiter in 1973; Pioneer 11, reached Jupiter in 1974; Voyager 1, which reached Jupiter in 1979; and Ulysses, which reached Jupiter in 1992). [10 Places in the solar system that We Like to Visit]
They compared that data to a map of the planet’s magnetic field is produced by the spacecraft Juno, which conducted the most recent and most thorough studies of the giant planet. In 2016, Juno orbited very close to Jupiter, passing from pole to pole, the collection of detailed gravity and magnetic field data. That allowed researchers to develop a thorough model of the planet’s magnetic field, and a number of detailed theories about how it is produced.
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The researchers behind this paper showed that the data of these four older probes, although more limited (each of them just swung by the planet again), not at all fit with the 2016 model of Jupiter’s magnetic field.
“Finding something like a minute if this turns into something as big as Jupiter’s magnetic field was a challenge,” Kimee Moore, a Juno scientist at Harvard university and the lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “Having a baseline of the close-up of the observations in the four decades to provide us with just enough information to confirm that Jupiter’s magnetic field, change in the course of time.”
A challenge: The researchers were only interested in changes to Jupiter’s internal magnetic field, but the planet also has magnetism coming from the upper layers of the atmosphere. Charged particles from volcanic eruptions on Io, Jupiter’s most volatile moon in the Jovian magnetosphere and the ionosphere (a region of charged particles in the outer regions of Jupiter’s atmosphere) and may also be a change of the magnetic field. But the researchers developed methods for the subtraction of the effects of their data, making them with the data based almost entirely on the internal dynamo of the planet.
So the question was, what the cause of the changes? What in Jupiter’s dynamo?
The researchers looked at different causes of the magnetic field changes. Their data closely match the predictions of a model in which the winds in the planet’s interior the change of the magnetic field.
“This wind to extend from the surface of the planet to over 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers deep, where the planet’s interior begins to change from a gas to a highly conductive liquid metal,” the statement said.
In truth, the researchers could not see that deep into Jupiter, so the depth measurements are really the best estimates with different uncertainties, the researchers wrote in the newspaper. Still, scientists have robust theories to explain how the wind behaves.
“They are supposed to shave, the magnetic fields, stretching them and wearing them around the planet,” the statement said.
Most of these wind-driven changes seem to be concentrated in Jupiter’s Large Blue Spot, an area of intense magnetic energy in the vicinity of Jupiter’s equator. (This is not the same as the Great Red Spot .) The northern and southern parts of the blue spot shift in an easterly direction on Jupiter, and the central third is the movement of the west, making changes on the planet of the magnetic field.
“It is incredible that a narrow magnetic hot spot, the Big Blue Spot, may be responsible for almost all of Jupiter is the secular variation, but the numbers bear it out,” Moore said in the statement. “With this new understanding of magnetic fields, in future science we will begin with the creation of a planetwide map of Jupiter [magnetic] variation. It may also be applications for scientists studying the Earth’s magnetic field, which still contains many mysteries to solve.”
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Originally published on Live Science.