Published: Sun, May 28, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

NASA spacecraft spots Earth-sized cyclones on Jupiter


Juno is being kept in fairly wide orbit around Jupiter's poles, but every 53 days as it switches between north and south, it swoops in to take a closer look at the rest of the giant planet along the way. It was discovered that Jupiter's poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.

The $1.1bn spacecraft spotted the chaotic weather at the top and bottom of Jupiter once it began skimming the cloud tops a year ago, surprising researchers who assumed the giant gas planet would be relatively boring and uniform.

Juno's findings are "really going to force us to rethink not only how Jupiter works", said Bolton.

In a single photo that combined JunoCam's photos of Jupiter, we can see just how magnificent and unpredictable Jupiter can be. NASA's Juno spacecraft released lovely images of Jupiter, which showcased a new light as well as answers researchers have been asking for a long time.

"We were all jumping up and down with excitement when the images came down", said Fran Bagenal, a planetary space physicist at the University of Colorado.

Another surprise comes from Juno's Microwave Radiometer (MWR), which samples the thermal microwave radiation from Jupiter's atmosphere, from the top of the ammonia clouds to deep within its atmosphere. "... We've observed a narrow ammonia-rich plume at the equator".

The mission has also sent back data on Jupiter's magnetic field, which we knew beforehand was the strongest in the solar system but thought to be much like our own compass-directing fields.

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Another surprise is just how strong Jupiter's magnetic field is.

"Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we've never had before", said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and the lead for the mission's magnetic field investigation at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Two papers at sciencemag.org describe fresh images and measurements of the planet's atmosphere, magnetic field and the brilliant non-stop light shows. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the transit can take 1.5 days.

Nasa's Juno spacecraft has captured the first close-up images of Jupiter. "It's very different, very complex", Juno's chief scientist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute said Thursday.

NASA also released numerous photos taken by Juno, which showcase the "polar cyclones" on Jupiter and the incredible swirls and colors on the planet's surface.

With dozens of cyclones hundreds of miles across - alongside unidentifiable weather systems stretching thousands of miles - the poles look nothing like Jupiter's equatorial region, instantly recognizable by its stripes and Great Red Spot, a raging hurricane-like storm.

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