A new study has suggested that the intensely powerful magnetic field of Jupiter may be creating movement within the underground ocean of its moon Europa, which was discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610.
As Phys.org reports, Ludovic Petitdemange at the Laboratory for Studies of Radiation and Matter in Astrophysics and Atmosphere and Christophe Gissinger from the École Normale Supérieure have discovered compelling evidence through the study of data extracted from the Galileo spacecraft, which suggests that Jupiter’s magnetic field may be creating a jet stream within Europa’s ocean.
The scientists began their study by explaining that the strength of Jupiter’s magnetic field is simply enormous, stretching for around 5 million kilometers and reaching out far enough to envelop its many moons, including Europa.
They also noted that Europa contains a deeply salty liquid ocean, which can be found beneath its sheets of ice. As such, the salt within this ocean would conduct electricity within it, and when combined with the pull of Jupiter’s magnetic field, may create movement.
To learn more about what kind of movement could be expected to occur within Europa’s ocean, the scientists devised numerical simulations which demonstrated that a jet stream may begin very close to the moon’s equator, moving in the opposite direction of Europa’s orbit and traveling at a rate of what may be several centimeters over a time span of just one second.
It was determined that this jet stream which moves around the equator may very likely be causing huge amounts of stress to the surface of the moon, which in turn could cause it to crack near the equator area of Europa.
As Gissinger noted, while Jupiter’s magnetic field and the movement of the jet stream within Europa’s ocean certainly would never change the rotation of this moon, it could be creating the cracking that has been spotted, according to New Scientist.
“It will not slow down the entire moon because the tidal forces from Jupiter are huge and will keep Europa’s rotation the same, but it will create these cracks that we have seen.”
It has also been suggested that some of the remaining energy obtained from the planet’s magnetic field could be converted into heat, which would head towards the poles of Europa, melting small amounts of ice and creating the large and unexplained plumes of water that scientists have observed.
The jet stream of Europa may even be this moon’s version of our Gulf Stream here on Earth. If this is indeed the case, such a powerful force being exerted upon the moon’s liquid ocean may carry and sustain life that could already be there, just waiting to be discovered.
“We know on Earth that the Gulf Stream is very important for transporting compounds which are important for life,” Gissinger explained.
The new study which has suggested that the magnetic field of Jupiter may be creating movement within the ocean of its moon Europa has been published in Nature Astronomy.