Earth, Jupiter and Saturn have global magnetic fields of their own. These are surrounded by so-called radiation belts. These belts are trapped in the magnetic field. These have fast moved charged particles like electrons, protons and heavier ions whiz around. These forms invisible and torus-shaped radiation belts.
The high velocities of these belts have the speed of light. The particles of the belt can ionize other molecules when they collide. Thus creates a hazardous environment which is dangerous to space probes and their instruments. So, the gas giant Jupiter have the extreme radiation belts in the solar system.
Scientists from MPS, California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics and Academy of Athens presented a comprehensive study about the heavy ions in Jupiter’s inner radiation belts.
Jupiter’s radiation belts extend several million kilometres into space. This area has radius of 670,000 kilometres around Jupiter. This has the highest energetic particle densities and velocities. Pioneer 11 in the mid-1970s, Galileo from 1995 to 2003 and Juno Mission have so far ventured into this innermost part of these radiation belts.
Venturing into the inner radiation belts
Galileo spacecraft reached Jupiter in 1995. It had Heavy Ion Counter (HIC). The mission spent eight years to provide insights into the distribution and dynamics of charged particles around Jupiter. The spacecraft flew solely through the outer and less extreme regions of the radiation belts. But in 2003, the spacecraft ventured into the innermost region.
Enigmatic oxygen ions
Scientists in their recent study have showed the ion composition within the inner radiation belts. They have also showed the ions’ velocities and spatial distribution. The radiation belts of Earth and Saturn are dominated by protons.
Jupiter’s ion composition changes drastically in favour of oxygen. The explanation for the increased concentration of oxygen ions is in the innermost region of the radiation belts. The release of oxygen after the collisions of sulfur ions with the fine dust particles of Jupiter’s rings have one possibility. The rings are much fainter than the Saturnian ones. The low-frequency electromagnetic waves in the magnetospheric environment of the innermost radiation belts heat oxygen ions to the observed energies.