An international team of space scientists has found evidence that hydrogen peroxide on Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede exists only at its high latitudes. For their research, reported in the journal Scientific progressThe team studied data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
For several years, researchers theorized that Ganymede contained hydrogen peroxide, but finding it required a previous team studying data from JWST. In this new effort, the research team analyzed new data sent back by the telescope to learn more about the moon’s surface and its hydrogen peroxide.
Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System, but it hasn’t received nearly as much attention as Europa, another of Jupiter’s moons, whose features and characteristics make it even more likely to harbor life at some point. But previous research has shown that the influence of Jupiter’s magnetic field on many of its moons suggests a strong possibility of hydrogen peroxide on Ganymede. This is because the water-ice on its surface may affect the radiation process.
Previous research has shown that Ganymede and Europa are affected by radiation from Jupiter’s magnetosphere – which bombards the surface of both moons and turns water ice into other compounds such as oxygen, ozone and hydrogen peroxide. In this new effort, the researchers studied data from the JWST NIRSpec Integral Field Unit.
The team found a 3.5 micrometer absorption band indicating the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the northern parts of the Moon, mostly facing the directional orbit. They also observed oxygen being more abundant at lower latitudes and on the opposite side of the Moon. These findings show a stark contrast between Ganymede and Europa—where Europa has most of its hydrogen peroxide located near its equator.
The team notes that their findings are part of a larger process to better understand how Ganymede’s magnetic field influences its surface chemistry.
Samantha K. Trumbo et al., Hydrogen peroxide at the poles of Ganymede, Scientific progress (2023). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adg3724
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