You’d think moons would be silent compared to their host planets, but that’s not quite true – if you know how to listen. NASA’s Juno mission lead researcher Scott Bolton audiotaped magnetic field activity around Jupiter’s moon Ganymede as the Juno spacecraft flew past on June 7, 2021. The 50-second clip reveals a sharp change in activity as the probe moves. entered another part of Ganymede’s magnetosphere, possibly as it exited the night side to enter daylight.
The audio came from shifting electrical and magnetic frequencies into the audible range. Jupiter’s magnetosphere dominates that of its moons and is present in the recording, but Ganymede is the only moon in the solar system with a magnetic field (probably due to its liquid iron core). This is not an achievement that you could repeat elsewhere in the near future.
The soundtrack was part of a larger Juno briefing where the mission team unveiled the most detailed map yet of Jupiter’s magnetic field. The data showed how long it would take for the Great Red Spot and the equatorial Great Blue Spot to move around the planet (about 4.5 years and 350 years, respectively). The findings also showed that east-west jet streams are tearing the Great Blue Spot apart, and that polar cyclones behave much like ocean vortices on Earth.
You wouldn’t hear these sounds if you could visit Ganymede yourself. However, they remind you that even seemingly dead worlds are often full of activity that you can detect with the right instruments. It’s just a matter of how easy it is to notice that activity.
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