Ghostly sounds of ‘crazy’ Jupiter beamed back to Earth
Turbulent planet described as ‘biggest, baddest, most dangerous place’ in solar system
An image provided by Nasa shows Jupiter’s north polar region, taken by the Juno spacecraft 195,000km away from the planet. Unlike the equatorial region’s familiar structure of belts and zones, the poles are mottled with rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of hurricanes on Earth. Jupiter’s poles have not been seen from this perspective since the Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by the planet in 1974. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS via AP)
An infrared image provided by Nasa shows the southern aurora of Jupiter, captured by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft. The phenomenon can hardly be seen from Earth due to the position of the two planets. The image is a mosaic of three photographs made as the spacecraft was moving away from the gas giant. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS via AP)
The ghostly sounds of the solar system’s “baddest” planet Jupiter have been beamed back to Earth.
Nasa spacecraft Juno has captured the best views of Jupiter yet, revealing turbulent storms in the north pole, as well as whistling and whooshing noises emanating from above.
Space agency Nasa has released a batch of close-up pictures taken by Juno when it flew within 4,000km of Jupiter’s dense cloud tops.
The data collected also revealed the eerie-sounding transmissions of what the area sounds like.
Dr Jonathan Nichols, a Juno mission scientist from the University of Leicester, said the latest success is “amazing” and described the images as “jaw-dropping”.
He told the BBC: “We’re hearing the sounds of the magnetic field from Jupiter vibrating like strings on a guitar. When they get disturbed they ring and that’s the sound that we’re hearing. It’s been changed from radio waves into audio and it makes that great sound.
“If you were going to make up a sound that sounds like space, then that’s it.”
He said Juno is the first spacecraft to go in to a “polar orbit”, meaning that it is the first spacecraft to get a view down on the poles of Jupiter.
‘Jupiter is crazy’
Dr Nichols added: “Jupiter is crazy. It’s the biggest, baddest, most dangerous place in the solar system. It’s really radioactive.”
Unlike rocky Earth and Mars, Jupiter is a gas giant that probably formed first, shortly after the sun. Studying the largest planet in the solar system may hold clues to understanding how Earth and the rest of the planets formed.
After a five-year journey, Juno slipped into orbit around Jupiter in July to map the massive planet’s poles, atmosphere and interior.
It is the first spacecraft to carry a titanium vault designed to shield its computer and electronics from intense radiation.
Juno is only the second mission to orbit Jupiter. When it completes its job in 2018, it will deliberately crash into Jupiter’s atmosphere and disintegrate.
Nasa planned the finale so that Juno will not accidentally smash into Jupiter’s moons, particularly the icy moon Europa, a target of future exploration.
Explaining the significance of the latest success, Dr Nichols told the BBC: “It’s important because Jupiter tells us the story of the solar system. It tells us the story of the formation of the solar system and therefore us.
“So first the sun formed four and a half billion years ago, and then what was left over Jupiter formed, and then what was left over from that we formed. So we’re the leftovers of the leftovers if you will.
“Knowing where Jupiter formed in the solar system tells us about how the other planets formed afterwards, so it’s all about the story of how the planets formed.
“In order to do that we need to know about the interior structure of Jupiter and how the atmosphere works and the composition of Jupiter, and that’s what the goal of Juno is.”