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Jupiter's Galilean moons are heating each other up. Find out why

Jupiter's moon Europa, Ganymede, Io, and Callisto are warming each other up, according to a recent study. Due to a process called tidal heating, gravitational tugs from Galilean moons and the planet stretch and squish the moons enough to warm them. 

Edited by: India TV News Desk New Delhi Published on: September 13, 2020 12:24 IST
Jupiter's Galilean moons are heating each other up
Image Source : NASA

Jupiter's Galilean moons are heating each other up

Jupiter's moon Europa, Ganymede, Io, and Callisto are warming each other up, according to a recent study. Due to a process called tidal heating, gravitational tugs from Galilean moons and the planet stretch and squish the moons enough to warm them. According to reports, in the case of the rocky moon Io, the tidal heating melts rock into magma. 

The researchers believe that Jupiter was responsible for most of the tidal heating associated with the liquid interiors of the moons. However,  Dr. Hamish Hay of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and colleagues found that moon-moon interactions may be more responsible for the heating than Jupiter alone, as reported by Sci-News.com. 

“Maintaining subsurface oceans against freezing over geological times requires a fine balance between internal heating and heat loss, and yet we have several pieces of evidence that Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and other moons should be ocean worlds,” said co-author Dr. Antony Trinh, a postdoctoral researcher in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

“Io, the moon closest to Jupiter, shows widespread volcanic activity, another consequence of tidal heating, but at a higher intensity likely experienced by other terrestrial planets, like Earth, in their early history.”

“Ultimately, we want to understand the source of all this heat, both for its influence on the evolution and habitability of the many worlds across the solar system and beyond.”

“It’s surprising because the moons are so much smaller than Jupiter,” Dr. Hay said.

Each moon’s natural frequency depends on the depth of its ocean, as per reports. 

When the tides generated by other objects in Jupiter’s moon system match each moon’s own resonant frequency, the moon begins to experience more heating than that due to tides raised by Jupiter alone, and in the most extreme cases, this could result in the melting of ice or rock internally.

The findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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