No Iron Dynamo

Cyclones and anti-cyclones in Jupiter’s atmosphere are “mysterious”. Image data credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing credit: Gerald Eichstädt © CC BY. Click to animate.

December 21, 2020

Many previous Pictures of the Day discuss the planet Jupiter—especially its electromagnetic interaction with its moons and the rest of the Solar System.

Jupiter’s magnetosphere extends outward for nearly 650 million kilometers; beyond the orbit of the planet Saturn. Belts of ionized particles surround Jupiter, with the most energetic of the trapped electrons radiating at radio frequencies. In 1955 that plasma radiation led to the discovery that Jupiter has a magnetic field. However, Immanuel Velikovsky predicted Jupiter’s magnetic field in October of 1953.

The Galileo orbiter discovered electricity around the planet, leading to the discovery that the moon Io dissipates more than 2 trillion watts of power between them! It is commonly suggested that magnetic fields are created by “a circulating molten mass of iron and nickel” within a rocky celestial body. The rotating “dynamo” is said to generate electricity that, in turn, generates a planet’s dipolar magnetic field (or moon in the case of Ganymede).

Jupiter is made up of hydrogen and helium, so how a dynamo can generate electric fields has been a mystery ever since the discovery of its magnetosphere. There is no spectrographic evidence for a dense iron core. In fact, since hydrogen and helium make up 98% of Jupiter’ composition, with about 2% all other elements, there is insufficient iron in any case.

According to a recent press release, data from the Juno spacecraft suggests that “hot spots” on Jupiter are much wider and deeper than anticipated. The findings were announced on December 11, 2020. According to Scott Bolton, Juno’s lead investigator, 

“Giant planets have deep atmospheres without a solid or liquid base like Earth. To better understand what is happening deep into one of these worlds, you need to look below the cloud layer. Juno, which recently completed its 29th close-up science pass of Jupiter, does just that.”

One discovery that illustrates Jupiter’s electrical environment is its aurorae. On Earth the aurora borealis, for example, is caused by charged particles from the solar wind traveling through the magnetosphere into the polar regions.

Juno revealed that Jovian aurorae are powered by electrons drawn out of the planet’s polar region. That means Jupiter, itself, powers its light-show. A NASA investigator wrote: “We never expected to see such strong auroral emissions caused by electrons being channelled out of the polar region.”

An electrical connection between Jupiter and its moons means that they are not electrically neutral. Jupiter exists in an electrodynamic relationship with the Sun, and it was thought that charged particles (the solar wind) power planetary aurorae. However, since Jupiter’s auroral storms are seen when solar activity is low, Io’s influence might provide a key to studying other planetary bodies with magnetic fields.

The Galileo spacecraft discovered electric charges flowing around the planet, just as Electric Universe advocates predicted. The electricity travels within Jupiter’s magnetic field, creating lightning in the planet’s upper atmosphere, as well as those intense aurorae at the poles.

Conventional theories assume that the Universe is electrically neutral, so when observational evidence confirms active plasma for instance, localized phenomena no matter how improbable are invoked. Tidal forces and volcanoes are presented as the cause for the activity seen on Io, for example, rather then the several million ampere charge flow that exists between it and its parent body.

Stephen Smith

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