Data gathered from NASA’s space probe orbiting Jupiter, revealed a feature which the planet has in common with Earth.
Researchers recently discovered that Jupiter has a magnetic field that keeps changing, much like the Earth’s, in small but significant ways. Researchers compared readings of Jupiter’s magnetic field collected by Juno with NASA’s older missions such as Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1, and Ulysses. Kimee Moore, a Juno scientist from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, comments, “Finding something as minute as these changes in something so immense as Jupiter’s magnetic field was a challenge. Having a baseline of close-up observations over four decades long provided us with just enough data to confirm that Jupiter’s magnetic field does indeed change over time.”
These findings are expected to open a doorway to a vast amount of information about the planet such as its atmospheric dynamics and its interior, which will help scientists understand Jupiter’s make up better. The planet’s strong zonal winds are believed to carry and distribute the magnetic fields around the planet. Scientists suggest that secular variation which takes place deep under the Earth’s surface, is also experienced by Jupiter.
Jupiter’s secular variation was found to be strongest at the Great Blue Spot, which is a powerful magnetic field close to the planet’s equator. The magnetic fields at the Great Blue Spot combined with atmospheric lead to the largest secular variations. “It is incredible that one narrow magnetic hot spot, the Great Blue Spot, could be responsible for almost all of Jupiter’s secular variation, but the numbers bear it out,” Moore concludes. “With this new understanding of magnetic fields, during future science passes we will begin to create a planet wide map of Jupiter’s secular variation. It may also have applications for scientists studying Earth’s magnetic field, which still contains many mysteries to be solved.”