HomeNewsAstronomy and SpaceExploring oxygen ions in Jupiter's innermost radiation belts

Exploring oxygen ions in Jupiter’s innermost radiation belts


While the high-energy oxygen and sulfur ions outdoors Amalthea’s orbit are equipped from the distant magnetosphere as byproducts of Io’s volcanic eruptions, one other supply have to be answerable for the excessive focus of high-energy oxygen ions inward of Amalthea, which prevents the transmission of such ions throughout its orbit. Credit: MPS

Planets like Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, with international magnetic fields of their very own, are surrounded by so-called radiation belts: Trapped within the magnetic subject, fast paced charged particles comparable to electrons, protons, and heavier ions whiz aroun, thus forming the invisible, torus-shaped radiation belts. With their excessive velocities reaching nearly the velocity of sunshine, the particles can ionize different molecules after they collide, making a hazardous setting that may also be harmful to space probes and their devices. In this respect, the gas giant Jupiter sports activities essentially the most excessive radiation belts within the solar system. In their new publication, researchers from the MPS, the California Institute of Technology (U.S.), the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (U.S.), the Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics (Portugal), and the Academy of Athens (Greece) now current essentially the most complete research thus far of the heavy ions in Jupiter’s internal radiation belts.


Like Jupiter’s large magnetic subject, its prolong a number of million kilometers into space; nonetheless, the area throughout the moon’s orbit of Europa, an space with a radius of about 670,000 kilometers across the gas giant, is the scene of the best energetic particle densities and velocities. Viewed from Jupiter, Europa is the second of the 4 giant Jovian satellites named “Galilean moons” after their seventeenth century discoverer. Io is the innermost Galilean moon. With the space probes Pioneer 11 within the mid-Nineteen Seventies, Galileo from 1995 to 2003, and at present Juno, three have thus far ventured into this innermost a part of these belts and carried out in-situ measurements. “Unfortunately, the data from Pioneer 11 and Juno do not allow us to conclude beyond doubt what kind of the spacecraft encountered there,” says MPS scientist Dr. Elias Roussos, lead creator of the brand new research, describing the present state of analysis. “Therefore, their energies and origin were also unclear until now,” he provides. Only the now rediscovered knowledge from the final months of the Galileo mission is detailed sufficient to enhance this case.

Venturing into the internal radiation belts

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft reached the Jupiter system in 1995. Equipped with the Heavy Ion Counter (HIC), contributed by the California Institute of Technology, and the Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), developed and constructed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in collaboration with the MPS, the mission spent the next eight years offering elementary insights into the distribution and dynamics of charged particles across the gas giant. However, to guard the spacecraft, it initially flew solely by way of the outer, much less excessive areas of the radiation belts. Only in 2003, shortly earlier than the top of the mission, when a better danger was justifiable, Galileo ventured into the innermost area throughout the orbits of the moons Amalthea and Thebe. Viewed from Jupiter, Amalthea and Thebe are the third and fourth moons of the large planet. The orbits of Io and Europa lie farther outward.

“Because of the exposure to strong radiation, it was to be expected that the measurement data from HIC and EPD from the inner region of the radiation belt would be heavily corrupted. After all, neither of these two instruments was specifically designed to operate in such a harsh environment,” Roussos describes his expectations when he began engaged on the present research three years in the past. Nevertheless, the researcher needed to see for himself. As a member of NASA’s Cassini mission, he had witnessed Cassini’s remaining, equally daring orbits at Saturn two years earlier and analyzed the distinctive knowledge from that remaining mission phase. “The thought of the long-completed Galileo mission kept coming to my mind,” Roussos recollects. To his personal shock, amongst many unusable knowledge units there have been additionally some that might be processed and analyzed with a lot effort.

Enigmatic oxygen ions

With the assistance of this scientific treasure, the authors of the present research have now been capable of decide for the primary time the ion composition throughout the internal radiation belts, in addition to the ions’ velocities and spatial distribution. In distinction to the radiation belts of Earth and Saturn, that are dominated by protons, the area throughout the orbit of Io additionally incorporates giant quantities of the a lot heavier oxygen and sulfur ions, with oxygen ions prevailing among the many two. “The energy distribution of the heavy ions outside the orbit of Amalthea suggests that they are largely introduced from a more distant region of the radiations belts,” Roussos says. The moon Io, with its greater than 400 lively volcanoes, which repeatedly hurl giant quantities of sulfur and sulfur dioxide into space—and to a lesser extent, Europa—are probably the principle sources.

Further inward, inside Amalthea’s orbit, the ion composition adjustments drastically in favor of oxygen. “The concentration and the energy of oxygen ions there is much higher than expected,” Roussos says. Actually, the focus must be lowering on this area, because the moons Amalthea and Thebe take in incoming ions; the 2 small moons’ orbits thus kind a type of pure ion barrier. This conduct is, for instance, recognized from radiation belts of the Saturnian system with its many moons.

The solely rationalization for the elevated focus of oxygen ions is subsequently one other native supply within the innermost area of the radiation belts. The launch of oxygen following the collisions of sulfur ions with the wonderful dust particles of Jupiter’s rings constitutes one risk, because the researchers’ pc simulations present. The rings, that are a lot fainter than the Saturnian ones, prolong roughly so far as the orbit of Thebe. However, it is usually conceivable that low-frequency electromagnetic waves within the magnetospheric setting of the innermost radiation belts warmth oxygen ions to the noticed energies.

“Currently, it is not possible to distinguish in favor of either of these possible sources,” Roussos says. Any of those two candidate mechanisms, however, have parallels to excessive power particle manufacturing in stellar or extrasolar environments, additional establishing that Jupiter’s radiation belts prolong into the astrophysical realm, a proven fact that the researcher hopes would justify their future exploration with a devoted space mission.


Juno detects Jupiter’s highest-energy ions


More data:
Elias Roussos, A supply of very energetic oxygen situated in Jupiter’s internal radiation belts, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm4234. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abm4234

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Exploring oxygen ions in Jupiter’s innermost radiation belts (2022, January 12)
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