Past data sheds light on Jupiter's moon

A new study of data gathered by the Galileo spacecraft gives new insight into Jupiter's moon Ganymede.
By Joseph Scalise | May 03, 2018
A group of astronomers from NASA have found that Jupiter's moon Ganymede is bombarded by plasma rain, according to a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists first found Ganymede is 1996. At the time, it was of great interest because, not only is it is the single largest moon in our solar system, but it is also the only known moon to create its own magnetic field. However, as the years went on, the distant body was largely forgotten about.

That is, until now.

In the recent study, researchers analyzed 20-year-old-data to discover that the satellite is constantly bombarded by a rain of highly charged particles.

The team made that discovery by combing through information gathered by the Galileo spacecraft, which first launched in 1989. Though astronomers analyzed most of the craft's data during its flight, certain sections were overlooked. Such gaps sparked the scientists in the recent research to go back and analyze the information for a second time.

That revealed both the moon and Jupiter share plasma between their magnetic fields. Not only that, but the plasma that rains down onto the moon shoots particles off the surface. Such mechanisms are important because studying them could help scientists get a much better idea of the body.

"There are these particles flying out from the polar regions, and they can tell us something about Ganymede's atmosphere, which is very thin," explained study co-author Bill Paterson, a researcher at the NASA Goddard space center, according to Gizmodo. "It can also tell us about how Ganymede's auroras form."

In addition, this research also shows the importance of going back over past data. There are many different crafts that have not been fully analyzed, and looking into them could reveal yet unknown secrets about the universe.

"We are now coming back over 20 years later to take a new look at some of the data that was never published and finish the story," said lead author Glyn Collinson, a scientist affiliated with NASA, according toNewsweek."We found there's a whole piece no one knew about."

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