5. April 2023 | Press releases:

Jupiter moon mission: Searching for oceans with technology from Braunschweig Live event for the launch of the JUICE mission at the Haus der Wissenschaft

The launch of the JUICE mission to explore the planet Jupiter and its moons is scheduled for 13 April. Technische Universität Braunschweig is involved in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) mission with a self-developed magnetic field measuring device and a camera data processing unit. TU Braunschweig is accompanying the penultimate launch of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, with a supporting programme at the Haus der Wissenschaft. The researchers are particularly interested in Jupiter’s moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa in order to investigate the development of habitable worlds around the gas giant.

The orbiter will arrive in the Jupiter system in 2030. Then a three-and-a-half-year investigation period will begin. The structure, composition and dynamics of Jupiter’s atmosphere will be studied. This will be followed by fly-bys of Jupiter’s moon Europa with a focus on geology and composition. Furthermore, the inner structure, the surface and the outermost layer of the atmosphere of the moon Callisto will be studied in detail.

Exploring water deposits beneath the surface crust

The last phase of the mission is dedicated to Ganymede. For this purpose, the orbiter will enter a stationary orbit around the moon. In this last phase, magnetic field observations have particularly high priority, as they can provide valuable information about the moon’s interior. The goal is to determine the depth and extent of the suspected ocean and to understand the source of Ganymede’s own field and its interaction with Jupiter’s magnetic field.

The Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics at TU Braunschweig is contributing to the measurement campaign with a fluxgate magnetometer. The project is financially supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection via the German Aerospace Centre. Together with two other magnetometers, it will be used to measure the magnetic fields in the Jupiter system and especially in the vicinity of Jupiter’s moons. TU Braunschweig’s fluxgate magnetometer is part of a magnetometer package (J-MAG) installed on the spacecraft.

“The J-MAG instrument is designed to observe minute induced magnetic fields originating from oceans beneath the lunar surfaces. J-MAG thus allows an insight into the interior of Jupiter’s moons. Of particular interest to J-MAG is Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. It is the only moon known to us with its own magnetic field. Because of this magnetic field, Ganymede is surrounded by its own small magnetosphere, which forms within Jupiter’s huge magnetosphere and interacts dynamically with Jupiter’s magnetic field,” says Professor Ferdinand Plaschke from the Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics.

J-MAG is being developed by a consortium of European universities and scientific institutes led by Professor Michele Dougherty (Imperial College London). The key players are Imperial College London, the Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics at TU Braunschweig and the Institute of Space Research in Graz.

The J-MAG instrument package consists of a main electronics box, which contains all the electronic boards of the instrument, and three measurement sensors: J-MAG-OB, J-MAG-IB and J-MAG-SCA. J-MAG-OB is an outboard fluxgate magnetometer developed by Imperial College London, and J-MAG-IB is an inboard fluxgate magnetometer developed at the Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics (IGeP) at TU Braunschweig. The third sensor, J-MAG-SCA, is a scalar magnetometer of a new type – a so-called Coupled Dark State Magnetometer (CDSM) – developed at the Space Research Institute and Graz University of Technology. All components interlock so that a particularly precise measurement standard can be achieved.

Optical camera system examines lunar surfaces and maps Jupiter clouds

The data processing unit of the JANUS camera was built at the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering at TU Braunschweig under the direction of Professor Harald Michalik. It was developed in Italy and Germany, among other countries, and has the task of characterising the surfaces of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa in order to be able to investigate their geological activity. It can also be used to observe and study cloud formations in Jupiter’s highly structured atmosphere, the Jupiter ring system and smaller Jupiter moons.

The multispectral camera system with 13 filters in different wavelength ranges will have a resolution of up to 2.4 metres on Ganymede and about 10 kilometres on Jupiter. The data processing unit controls the camera electronics and compresses the image data in real time before the images are copied to the JUICE spacecraft’s data storage and sent from there to Earth at a low data rate.