The atmosphere of a moon at Jupiter created an epic soundtrack during a spacecraft flyby.
Ganymede attracted attention about six months ago when scientists discovered water vapor in its atmosphere, suggesting the large moon may be a possibility for life. The June 7 flyby by the NASA Juno spacecraft — whose soundtrack was just released — may also shed some light on the moon’s properties, but in a higher-up region called the magnetosphere that includes charged particles.
This was the first time any mission flew by Ganymede in more than 20 years. The last spacecraft to make such a trek was the Galileo mission, which orbited Jupiter and its moons between 1995 and 2003.
“This soundtrack is just wild enough to make you feel as if you were riding along,” said Scott Bolton, mission principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, in a NASA statement accompanying the audio. “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.”
Mission researchers are still analyzing the cosmic soundtrack to figure out why the waves changed frequency, which they hypothesize may be because the spacecraft was moving from the night side to the dayside of Ganymede.
Juno only whizzed by about 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) from the moon’s surface, which is pretty close considering that the moon is only about 3,200 miles (5,150 km) in diameter.
The spacecraft’s next close moon flyby is expected to be of Europa on Sept. 29, 2022, according to a press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of January 2021. That said, we may be able to get data from Ganymede at a greater distance, as the diagram shows more flybys of the moon (from further away) in future orbits after the June 2021 opportunity.