A team of international astronomers have found that the chorus waves around Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Europa are much more powerful than the waves around other planets in our solar system, a new study published in Nature Communications reports.
Chorus waves are electromagnetic waves that emit out from planets and cause different phenomena in their atmosphere. For instance, Earth’s waves cause the Northern Lights and generate extremely high-energy electrons.
In the new study, scientists analyzed such waves around the planets in our solar system and then used data gathered by the Galileo space to match that against Jupiter’s moons. That revealed the waves of Europa are 100 times more intense than average planetary waves, and the ones around Ganymede are 1 million times stronger than that.
“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 lead author Yuri Shprits, a professor at GFZ/ University of Potsdam, according to Phys.org.
While scientists are not sure why the natural satellites have such strong waves, they believe it could be partly due to the fact that they orbit within Jupiter’s magnetic field. That region is the largest field in the solar system, and it measures 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s.
At that power range, Ganymede would be able to accelerate particles to extremely high speeds and energies.
That is important because, as Earth’s chorus waves can create so-called “killer” electrons that severely damage spacecraft, there is a chance that Jupiter’s moons can generate them as well.
More research is needed, but such insight will give scientists a chance to understand the core processes that drive acceleration and loss around planets in our solar system. That may then allow them to gain new information about exoplanets as well as potential energy sources down the line.
“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,” added Shprits, in a statement.