King of the gods…AND the planets!

hryzunik | June 05, 2007

Fascinating recording of Jupiter sounds (electromagnetic “voices”) by NASA-Voyager. The complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind , planetary magnetosphere etc. create vibration “soundscapes”. It sounds very interesting, even scary.
Jupiter is mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. The entire planet is made of gas, with no solid surface under the atmosphere. The pressures and temperatures deep in Jupiter are so high that gases form a gradual transition into liquids which are gradually compressed into a metallic “plasma” in which the molecules have been stripped of their outer electrons. The winds of Jupiter are a thousand metres per second relative to the rotating interior. Jupiter’s magnetic field is four thousand times stronger than Earth’s, and is tipped by 11° degrees of axis spin. This causes the magnetic field to wobble, which has a profound effect on trapped electronically charged particles. This plasma of charged particles is accelerated beyond the magnetosphere of Jupiter to speeds of tens of thousands of kilometres per second. It is these magnetic particle vibrations which generate some of the sound you hear on this recording.
Visit… for more sounds.

Mighty Jupiter of the thunderbolts…King of the gods of ancient Rome, and foremost among the planets of our solar system. It has in excess of 1,000 times the volume of puny Terra, 300 times its mass, and more than 2.5 times its gravity.

This immense world, archetypical among and lending its name to the so-called Jovian planets, has twice the mass of all other worlds in the solar system combined.

Its enormous Red Spot, only the most persistent and attention-grabbing of many that dot the upper layers of its atmosphere, could easily engulf two Earth-sized worlds, and has been known of since it was seen by Galileo Galilei in the 1600s.

This monster among the planets has been the subject of much speculation, some verified, some unresolved, much fictional, and a lot of it, not crankery, not charlatanry, but in the words of the late Stephen Jay Gould, nonetheless “gloriously wrong.”

Often claimed as support for the claims of pseudo-astronomy are the fact that it emits twice as much heat as it receives from the Sun, the fact that it generates considerable radio noise, a powerfully lethal radiation belt, and electrical activity associated with its weather systems and its nearby moon, volcanic, sulfurous Io (more on that in a bit).

Despite the often vociferous and observationally unsupported assertions of advocates of alternative cosmologies, astronomy requires no new paradigms to explain these phenomena.

They simply and elegantly result from the planet’s tremendous mass, gravity, atmospheric pressure, and the huge planetary ocean of liquid hydrogen, with a sea of still-denser liquid metallic hydrogen beneath it. The estimated temperature at the core exceeds that of the Sun’s photosphere at about 24,000°c.

This, fueled by Jupiter’s rapid 9.9 hour axial rotation produces a dynamo effect generating both storm systems with lightning-flashes 100 times as bright as any on Earth and a considerable magnetic field 50 times the size and thousands of times the strength of that of our paltry little planet.

It’s auroral displays are roughly 1,000 times as intense as those in Earth’s ionosphere, and are fed by ionized matter thrown off by nearby Io and channeled by Jupiter’s magnetosphere, also generating a massive electrical current through this same interaction estimated at about a million, million watts.

On top of all this, there are the Galilean moons, which individually were named, not by Galileo himself, who called them the Medicean moons after his patrons, but by a fellow who may have seen them prior to Galileo named Simon Marius.

They are four in number, and the smallest of them, Io, which would be a close match in both geological activity and makeup to the Christian concept of Hell, is about the size of Luna.

The larger ones are Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, this last larger than even Mercury, though like Callisto, made up of rock, iron and ice, and so less dense than the innermost planet of the solar system.

Finally, there are Jupiter’s dark rings, less spectacular than those of Saturn, the main ring extending out to 128,750 km and almost 7,000 km across, this having been unseen until the Voyager missions of the late 1970s.

These appear to be made up of matter thrown off by collisions between the tiny moons of Adrastea, and Metis, and the fainter outer regions of the rings from material thrown off by two other moons, Thebe and Amalthea.

But that’s not the reason I think we should explore Jupiter and its moons…

My hope is that somewhere in the Jovian system, we could find life. It would certainly be interesting if it could be found in the more thermally hospitable layers of Jove’s atmosphere, but failing that, even easier, perhaps we’ll find it on a future mission to the sub-surface oceans of Europa.

It would be very interesting indeed.


(The Rough Guide to The Universe: 2nd Edition, pp. 112-124 by John Scalzi;, 2008)


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