The "Jupiter's Monstrous Magnetosphere" and "Radiation" sections can directly used by students or presented by teachers. Use the cross-sectional diagram and accompanying scale to help students visualize the magnetosphere's shape and its size relative to that of the planet.

Q: Why do we think Jupiter has a metallic fluid hydrogen layer deep inside the planet?

H: What special characteristic about the Earth is associated with Earth's iron-nickel liquid outer core?

Jupiter's "Monstrous" Magnetosphere

A magnetosphere is the region around a planet where its magnetic field predominates over the magnetic field of the surrounding interplanetary region. Despite its name, Jupiter's magnetosphere is not spherical, but has a long "magnetotail" streaming away like a windsock from the Sun's solar wind . The solar wind itself is made mostly of protons and electrons. The magnetotail stretches beyond the orbit of Saturn! A shock wave (like the bow wave of a boat) is formed where the solar wind particles are slowed by the magnetic field causing a turbulent region to form ("magnetopause"). In the outer reaches of Jupiter's magnetosphere there is a disk-shaped region (“magnetodisk”) within which electric currents flow, carried by low-energy "plasma". Plasma is matter which is heated up enough not only to break the bonding forces between its molecules, but also to free the electrons from their atoms!

Arrows located on the magnetic field's "lines of force" show the direction that an Earth-made compass' "North" arrow would point. On Jupiter, the "North" arrow would point toward geographic SOUTH! On Earth, rocks with magnetic minerals show that the "polarity" of the magnetic field has changed throughout geologic time. This is probably also true for the magnetic fields of other planets... so if you're planning a trip to Jupiter in the future don't throw away your compass !!

High-energy particles are trapped in Jupiter's magnetic field and form belts of intense radiation aligned with the magnetic axis. There are similar belts of radiation on Earth (Van Allen belts) but Jupiter's can be up to 10,000 times more intense! These levels of radiation near Jupiter's moon Io are so high that a human would absorb a lethal dose in just minutes. This level of radiation also is a serious hazard to spacecraft. Lessons learned from earlier missions, which were seriously jeopardized by radiation effects, were taken into account when scientists and engineers designed later missions.
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