October 14 – Tone Deaf

Today’s factismal: Scientists have taken radio recordings from the Juno probe and turned them into sound recordings.

Jupiter is more than the biggest planet in our Solar System. It was Jupiter’s four largest moons that caused us to rethink our place in the Universe. It was Jupiter’s interaction with Saturn that moved many of the planets where they are today – and which continues to shape the Solar System even now. And, at 318 times the mass of Earth, Jupiter represents 70% of the non-Sun stuff in the Solar System. In other words, Jupiter is pretty darn important.

Jupiter, known to the Babylonians as Marduk (My camera)

Jupiter with its Galilean moons
(My camera)

Despite that, only nine probes have visited Jupiter – and only two of those orbited the planet! The first probe was Pioneer 10, which sped by Jupiter on December 4, 1973. It was followed a year later by Pioneer 11. Jupiter wouldn’t get another visitor until Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 used it as a gravity slingshot to get into the outer Solar System in 1979. It would take another 24 years before the Galileo mission would send a spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and drop a probe into the atmosphere. The spacecraft orbited Jupiter for eight years before being sent into Jupiter’s atmosphere in order to avoid accidentally contaminating any of the moons. Both Ulysses (in 2000) and Cassini-Huygens (in 2007) would fly by Jupiter to use its gravity but neither would do any detailed science. It wasn’t until last month that Jupiter got another orbiter: Juno.

An artist's deception of what Juno looks like orbiting Jupiter (Image courtesy NASA)

An artist’s deception of what Juno looks like orbiting Jupiter
(Image courtesy NASA)

Named after Jupiter’s wife, Juno was designed to orbit Jupiter and peer beneath its clouds to learn what was going on in the planet’s interior. (In mythology, Juno could peer behind the clouds Jupiter raised up to hide his mischief.) And one of the ways that Juno does that is with the Waves instrument, which listens to the radio signals given off by Jupiter and its aurora. They’ve just released their first results and they are pretty darn spectacular.

The instrument captured the sound made by the solar wind as it hits Jupiter’s magnetosphere (the region controlled by Jupiter’s magnetic field)  and slows down; it also captured the difference in radio energy inside of Jupiter’s magnetosphere and outside of it (where the Sun’s magnetic field rules). By listening to the sounds made by the data, scientists can learn how Jupiter’s magnetic field is structured which may help us build better magnetic devices here on Earth for things like fusion or radio broadcast.

Jupiter in real color (Image courtesy NASA)

Jupiter in real color
(Image courtesy NASA)

Now if you’d like to learn more about the Juno mission or help with mission planning, why not head over to JunoCam? They are looking for pictures from amateur astronomers and comments from everybody to help them plan the mission. To learn more, orbit:

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