Jupiter sits in the hole of a giant, doughnut-shaped magnetic field swirling with charged particles that create intense radiation belts. The planet’s many moons are caught in the waves of radiation—and that might even make one of them glow, according to new research published on November 9 in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Researchers mimicked the cold, salty surface of Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, Europa, using ice. When they exposed their frozen faux-Europa sample to radiation, it lit up, reports Science News’ Maria Temming.
Our moon appears bright in the night sky because it’s hit by sunlight, which it reflects down to Earth. The side without sunlight is dark. Europa, which is just a bit smaller than Earth’s moon, also has a sunlit side. But the other side might glow in the dark because of Jupiter’s radiation.
Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory figured this out because they created a device