March 24, 2018

NASA mission discovers Jupiter's inner secrets

09 March 2018, 02:37 | Kara Nash

NASA spies fierce cyclone dance on Jupiter

Juno is finding weird things in Jupiter's vast cyclone clusters

Researchers continue to report new discoveries about Jupiter thanks to NASA's Juno spacecraft, which is only the second orbiter to circle our solar system's biggest planet.

Until now, scientists have had scant information about what lies below Jupiter's thick red, brown, yellow and white clouds, and a surface famed for its distinctive dark and light bands and "great red spot". As part of the Juno Gravity experiment, researchers have used the changing speed of the probe to measure the attraction of Jupiter and thus its gravitational field.

'Until now, we only had a superficial understanding of them and have been able to relate these stripes to cloud features along Jupiter's jets. The images have been taken in different times while Juno was leaving the planet after the closest approach. The recent findings will perk up understanding of the planet's core mass, interior structure and eventually, its origin.

The massive cyclones that surround its north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features based on other Juno science results recently released. For a fast-rotating gas planet like Jupiter, such an asymmetry is rather unusual, as it suggests that it is also low The surface must give dynamic and diverging currents, as Iess and his colleagues explain.

Astronomers have finally managed to get a good look at Jupiter's poles to find that the gaseous giant is indeed more unusual than believed with its poles packing odd geometric arrays of storms. Both of these motions effectively either add or subtract mass in different areas and that has an effect on the planet's gravity field. Using this data, the researchers determined that the wind belts - these stripes observed by Galileo - extend 3,000 km deep.

The mission also found that the planet's interior rotates as a solid body, despite its fluid nature.

The lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer Yohai Kaspi talked about Jupiter's extended jets.

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The stunning Jupiter cyclone storms image captured by NASA Juno probe can be enjoyed at the beginning of this article. These atmospheric winds last longer than similar atmospheric processes found on Earth.

If you had asked an expert over the past half century, you would have heard two general possibilities: Either the winds go as deep as 10,000 kilometers from the cloud tops and are driven by heat rising from those depths or they are very shallow and confined to just the top few hundred kilometers of Jupiter's atmosphere.

While these storms might look like the same cyclone with branched arms, they are actually separate storms that are densely packed. "We know with Cassini data that Saturn has a single cyclonic vortex at each pole". All cyclones lasted for seven months.

They also didn't expect the cyclones to be so close together and so symmetrical. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the Solar System".

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, and spent five years travelling to its destination.

"These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter's curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments", Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, notes. The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size.

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