Juno Reveals Interesting Details about Jupiter’s Magnetic Shield


A highly detailed map of Jupiter’s magnetic field is being compiled by the Juno spacecraft. The field, which comes from the inner parts of the planet, may reveal interesting details about its surface.

It has already been observed that the magnetic field varies dramatically between the two poles, a detail that sparked the interest of the astronomic community.

Since it reached Jupiter back in 2016, Juno has been collecting valuable data about the planets and its interesting processes. The data has refined our view of the planet’s magnetic field, allowing the creation of an advanced model. Juno is the only spacecraft that flies so close to Jupiter, flying at over 4000 km above the surface of the planet every 53 days.

Among all the planets in our solar system Jupiter has the strongest magnetic field.  This is paradoxically a significant threat to Juno, since high-energy particles from sunrays form a treacherous field that may damage the sensible electronics needed by the craft in order to capture and send data. Until now, the radiation shields have been working flawlessly.

Electric currents travel in the planet’s interior, maintaining its strong field. Since Jupiter is made mostly of hydrogen and helium, the fact that it is so conductive was surprising at first. It was later discovered that the high pressure exerted by the planet enables the appearance of metallic hydrogen, a state that makes it as conductive as some metals.

Giant gas planets take a long time to cool down after they are formed. It seems that Jupiter eliminates a quantity of heat almost on par with what it receives from the sun, prompting a convection phenomenon, which is the cause of the giant cloud swirls.

In a similar fashion, Earth’s magnetic field is also created by currents, but the liquid iron core of our planet plays a significant role how the electric currents flow. Both planets feature a negative and positive pole situated at opposite sides of the planet.

There are several speculations regarding Jupiter’s core. Some theorized that it may be compact, while others think it may be larger and less dense. Another theory implies the existence of one or more fluid layers. Saturn may have one stable fluid layer, which explains why its magnetic field is so symmetrical when compared to Jupiter and Earth.

While the basic equations that govern the relationship between fluids and magnetic fields have been developed a century ago, the fluid-dynamo equation remained convoluted until recently. One main issue is the fact that the equation itself requires comprehensive data, which takes time to be collected and analyzed before it is usable.

As Juno maps Jupiter the future seems bright for the research.


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