5 Jupiter Mysteries Europe's space agency hopes to solve them with their Juice mission

5 Jupiter Mysteries Europe’s space agency hopes to solve them with their Juice mission

Jupiter is home to a tangerine storm larger than Earth, possessors of peachy winds so cold you’d likely freeze on impact, and collectors of 79 individual moons. Jupiter is something of a spectacle. Even its enormity is hard to fathom. Take every planet in our solar system, add up their masses, multiply that by two, and you get a chunk roughly that size.

Who knows what might be going on over there. I’m serious.

That is why the European Space Agency plans to send a space probe to join in April 2023 NASA Juno Orbiter in studying the Jovian way of life. It’s called Juice or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer. “Juice will observe the giant gaseous planet and its three major ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – in detail using a range of remote sensing, geophysical and in situ instruments,” ESA said of the mission overview.

And on Monday, the agency also laid out five specific mysteries it hopes to address once Juice reaches its destination, hopefully in 2031 on this mammoth of planets.

ESA’s first big question is the obvious one, which you might have guessed from Juice’s full name: what’s going on with Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa?

In short, these three moons are at the forefront of the agency’s efforts as they are all suspected to have some type of water on or below their surface. Europa in particular is projected by astrobiologists to have a significant amount of H2O, and water equates to the potential for extraterrestrial life, which leads us to another question from Juice.

Has there ever been life on one of Jupiter’s moons – or, I guess, on Jupiter? In truth, probably not on the latter, since there is neither land nor water on this planet. There is only gas and atmospheric water Steam. Basically, if you tried to stand on Jupiter, you would just fall into it until you were crushed by the planet’s immense gravity, which is concentrated at the center. That is, if you could make it this far.

But back to Europe, a very world here With solid ground, scientist currently have this region at the top of their list of places We could find evidence of extraterrestrial life. In fact, NASA is building a spacecraft to scan Europa for such remains. it’s called clipper and it’s pretty impressive.

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Jupiter (center) and its moon Europa (left) are seen through the 2.12 micron filter of the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam instrument.

NASA, ESA, CSA and B Holler and J Stansberry (STScI)

Now to Ganymede, another ESA wonder: why is Ganymede the only moon in our solar system with its own magnetic field? This is pretty weird. In fact, Ganymede’s magnetic field is so strong that it even creates auroras in its atmosphere, much like Earth’s magnetic field creates the aurora borealis when electrons are trapped in it.

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Ganymede in the shadow of Jupiter with the auroras glowing.

NASA, ESA

But for some unknown reason, the rest of his lunar community can’t relate to his magnetic ventures. In that sense it is an outsider. “Juice’s tour of Jupiter will include multiple flybys of these ocean-bearing moons before culminating in an orbit around Ganymede — the first time a spacecraft has orbited a moon in the outer Solar System,” ESA said.

In addition, ESA wants to get a little more general and know if and how Jupiter’s complex space environment shaped the trajectory or conditions of its moons. With 79 individual satellites orbiting it, this Jovian world essentially has its own solar system – if Jupiter were the sun.

Finally, the fifth and final box ESA hopes to tick in the preparation of Jupiter is how such colossal balls of gas form in the first place. Although colored with hues on the cooler end of the spectrum, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn are also delicate cradles of nimble molecules floating around our solar system. What would create these extreme mini-universes?

If all goes well, we may have some answers by the 2030s.

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