Who would’ve guessed that Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s many moons, sounds like a Brian Eno album?
A new research dump from the Juno orbiter has given all of us space nerds a blessed holiday treat: Sights and sounds from our solar system’s largest planet and its largest moon. The photos of the swirling gas giant’s “surface” are as gorgeous and painterly as Jupiter watchers have come to expect, but the real treat is that audio track.
Captured by Juno’s Waves instrument, which measures electric and radio waves in a planet’s (or moon’s, in this case) magnetosphere, the 50-second clip puts out some positively otherworldly sounds. Researchers believe there’s an easy explanation for the sudden jump to a significantly higher pitch at around the 30-second mark.
“This soundtrack is just wild enough to make you feel as if you were riding along as Juno sails past Ganymede for the first time in more than two decades,” said Scott Bolton, a lead researcher on the Juno project, in NASA’s reveal. “If you listen closely, you can hear the abrupt change to higher frequencies around the midpoint of the recording, which represents entry into a different region in Ganymede’s magnetosphere.”
Another lead researcher on the project, University of Iowa’s William Kurth, expressed his belief that the change in frequency is a result of Juno “passing from the nightside to the dayside of Ganymede.”
To be clear: This doesn’t mean you’d hear what’s in the recording NASA shared if you somehow found yourself standing on the surface of Ganymede. The magnetic and radio waves collected by Juno are merely data points; NASA’s team is responsible for shifting their frequency into a range that’s audible to most people without assistance.
The Waves recording was collected in June 2021 during the same Juno flyby that left us with this incredible new photo of Ganymede over the summer.
The Juno data drop also gave us a pair of new looks at Jupiter. This one, collected on Nov. 29, may as well be an artist’s rendition of the planet.
Credit: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS | Image processing: Kevin M. Gill CC BY
It’s not, though. The photo, captured by Juno’s “visible-light imager,” offers an up-close look at two of the planet’s swirling, raging storm systems.
Another shot from Jupiter compares one of the planet’s storms to an Earthly algae bloom that occurred in the Norwegian Sea, captured by satellite photography. The comparison was prompted by Lia Siegelman, an oceanographer who sees in space imagery like this an opportunity to glean a better understanding Earth’s oceans.
Credit: NASA OBPG OB.DAAC/GSFC/Aqua/MODIS. | Image processing: Gerald Eichstadt CC BY
“When I saw the richness of the turbulence around the Jovian cyclones, with all the filaments and smaller eddies, it reminded me of the turbulence you see in the ocean around eddies,” Siegelman said. “These are especially evident in high-resolution satellite images of vortices in Earth’s oceans that are revealed by plankton blooms that act as tracers of the flow.”
You can read more about all of this straight from the NASA team that’s responsible for Juno.