Image of Jupiters space environment, or magnetosphere
Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Cut-away schematic of Jupiter’s space environment showing magnetically trapped radiation ions (in red), the neutral gas torus of the volcanic moon Io (green) and the newly discovered neutral gas torus of the moon Europa (blue). The white lines represent magnetic field lines. Energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) are emitted from the Europa torus regions because of the interaction between the trapped ions and the neutral gases.
Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Stretching millions of miles around Jupiter, the donut-shaped cloud, known as a "torus," is believed to result from the uncommonly severe bombardment of ion radiation that Jupiter sends toward Europa. That radiation damages Europa’s surface, kicking up and pulling apart water-ice molecules and dispersing them along Europa’s orbit into a neutral-gas torus with a mass of about 60,000 tons.
The cloud’s mass indicates that the intense radiation Europa faces has more severe consequences than scientists thought, says Dr. Barry Mauk, head of the APL research team whose findings appear in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal Nature. The mass also shows that Europa, in an orbit some 416,000 miles (671,000 kilometers) from Jupiter, wields considerable influence on the magnetic configuration around the giant planet.
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