NASA’s Juno flew in the proximity of the north pole of the ninth biggest space object in the solar system, the moon Ganymede.
The infrared data collected by Juno’s JIRAM (Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper) tool offers the first infrared mapping of the immense moon’s northern edge. Here are the latest details.
Moon Ganymede Captured Like Never Before
The only moon in the solar system that is bigger than Mercury is Ganymede. The moon’s composition contains essential clues for understanding the development of 79 Jovian moons from the time of their formation to today.
Ganymede is also known as the only moon in the solar system with a magnetic field. On our planet, the magnetic field provides a pathway for plasma to enter our atmosphere and create aurora. As Ganymede possesses no atmosphere to block their progress, the poles’ surface is permanently being hit by plasma from Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere. The hit has a dramatic effect on Ganymede’s ice.
“The JIRAM data shows the ice at and surrounding Ganymede’s north pole has been modified by the precipitation of plasma,” detailed Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Insitute for Astrophysics in Rome.
The ice near Ganymede’s poles is amorphous. Such a thing happens because charged particles follow the moon’s magnetic field pathway to the poles, where they impact, destroying the ice, preventing it from having an ordered structure.
The frozen water molecules discovered at both poles have no apparent order to their arrangement. The amorphous ice has a distinct infrared signature than the crystalline ice spotted on Ganymede’s equator.
JIRAM was developed to capture the infrared light emerging from deep inside Jupiter, examining the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops. But the tool can also be utilized to explore the moons Europa, Callisto, Io (the Galilean moons).
The mysteries of Jupiter’s biggest moon unveiled by Juno and JIRAM will support the upcoming mission to the icy world. The ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission is expected to start a 3.5-year exploration of Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere, its icy moons Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa, and the turbulent atmosphere, beginning in 2030.