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Evidence for a magnetosphere at Ganymede from plasma-wave observations by the Galileo spacecraft


ON 27 June 1996 the Galileo spacecraft1,2 made the first of four planned close fly-bys of Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon. Here we report measurements of plasma waves and radio emissions, over the frequency range 5 Hz to 5.6 MHz during the first encounter. Intense plasma waves were detected over a region of space nearly four times Ganymede's diameter, which is much larger than would be expected for a simple wake arising from Ganymede's passage through Jupiter's rapidly rotating magneto-sphere. The types of waves detected (whistler-mode emissions, upper hybrid waves, electrostatic electron cyclotron waves and escaping radio emission) strongly suggest that Ganymede has a large, extended magnetosphere of its own. The data indicate the presence of a strong (B > 400 nT) magnetic field, and show that Ganymede is surrounded by an ionosphere-like plasma with a maximum electron density of about 100 particles cm−3 and a scale height of about 1,000km.

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Gurnett, D., Kurth, W., Roux, A. et al. Evidence for a magnetosphere at Ganymede from plasma-wave observations by the Galileo spacecraft. Nature 384, 535–537 (1996).

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