Despite being so far from the Sun, Jupiter’s moons are hot, hotter than they should be! The beautiful icy moons are known to contain interiors warm enough to house oceans of liquid water. And on the planet’s innermost moon, Io, the heat is intense enough to melt rocks into magma.
Previously, researchers believed that Jupiter was the sole reason behind most of the warming associated with Io’s internal magma ocean and the liquid interiors of its three icy Galilean moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. But now, a new study has found that moon-moon interactions may be more responsible for warming than the gas giant.
Essentially, the researchers found that the moons gravitationally attract against each other and create friction ̵
“It’s surprising because the moons are much smaller than Jupiter,” said lead author Hamish Hay, a postdoctoral fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “You wouldn’t expect them to be able to create such a broad tidal response.”
However, they do just that.
In order for a moon to experience the resonance of the tides, their oceans must be tens to hundreds of kilometers thick. Incidentally, the oceans on Jupiter’s moons are so thick that the planet’s influence alone is unable to create tides with the right frequency to resonate with the moons. It was only when the researchers added the gravitational influence of the other moons that they began to see tidal forces approaching the natural frequencies of the moons.
When the tides generated by other moons resonate with the frequency of a moon, they act as a source of energy and excite the underground lunar oceans near their natural frequencies. This leads to the generation of fast-flowing tidal waves, which effectively release significant amounts of heat into the oceans and crusts of Io and Europa.
Thereafter, these moons begin to experience greater warming than that caused by Jupiter alone and, in extreme cases, could even cause ice or rock to melt internally, especially on Io.
However, this current model works on the assumption that tidal resonances never get too extreme. In future studies, Hay and his team of researchers intend to see what happens when they lift that constraint and also study the true depth of the oceans within these moons.
All in all, getting a complete picture of how these moons affect each other is crucial, as it could shed light on how Jupiter’s wonderful lunar system has evolved as a whole and also improve our understanding of how ocean worlds evolve. in compact systems.
The results of this study were published in the journal Geophysical Research Lettersand can be accessed here.
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