NASA's Juno spacecraft has delivered some of the most amazing glimpses of the gas giant that humanity has ever seen, but it also teaches scientists a lot about how the planet works. We now know that its storms extend far deeper into the planet than previously assumed, and that Jupiter's lightning is much like the kind we see here on Earth.
Now, data collected from Juno has sculpted on another aspect of Jupiter that seems much like the earth. In a new paper published in Nature Astronomy scientists reveal that Juno's readings of Jupiter's magnetic field differ from previous missions. This suggests that the planet's magnetic field actually changes in small but important ways, just as the shifts we see in Earth's own magnetic field.
For the study, NASA researchers compared the latest readings of Jupiter's magnetic field with data collected yearly from missions including Voyage and Pioneer. Juno's more passes of Jupiter using its magnetometer have provided a wealth of information about the planet's magnetic field as it exists today, and the researchers quickly noticed the differences.
"Finding something like a moment when these change into something as big as Jupiter's magnetic field was a challenge, Juno scientist kimee moore said in a statement." Having a baseline of close-ups of observations over four decades For a long time, we gave just as much data to confirm that Jupiter's magnetic field is actually changing over time. "
These small changes indicate that Jupiter is experiencing a phenomenon known as secular variation, which also happens on earth. On our own planet, secular variation is attributed to changes that take place deep beneath the surface, and at Jupiter it is believed that intense winds are far below the cloud peaks is the engine that drives the change.
It is an important discovery for scientists who are still striving after learning more about Earth's own magnetic field, and the Juno team plans to continue tracking the changes in Jupiter's magnetism in the future.