Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

NASA's Juno finds Jupiter's poles are ridden with cyclones

NASA's Juno finds Jupiter's poles are ridden with cyclones

As a comparison, our atmosphere accounts for less than one-millionth of Earth's mass. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system". Less is also the lead author of a paper included in the journal "Nature". Now, thanks to data collected by the Juno mission, scientists have been able to take a "peek" beneath the planet's surface to see just how far these belts of strong winds extend; and its far, very far.

"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.Juno's unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries", said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. Like a compact series of cogs in an unimaginably large machine, vast cyclones also swirl around the north and south poles, clocking wind speeds of over 220 miles per hour (350 kilometers per hour) - wind speeds that are the equivalent of a terrestrial Category 5 hurricane.

More data needs to be analysed in order to fully understand what is going on beneath Jupiter's atmosphere and Kaspi and fellow co-workers are hoping that by studying some of Jupiter's other iconic features, such as the Great Red Spot, with the same methods they developed to characterise the jet-streams, they can understand how deep this giant storm extends as well.

Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, Yohai Kaspi, explained the mission's breakthrough to understanding the asymmetry of the planet.

The first study, led by Luciano Ies, a professor of aerospace at the Sapienza University in Rome, shows that the gravitational field of the giant gas varies greatly from the north to the south pole, which is unexpected for a fluid planet that rotates rapidly.

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Instead, they found an octagon-shaped grouping over the north pole, with eight cyclones surrounding one in the middle, and a pentagon-shaped batch over the south pole.

"Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter's poles". Imaging in the infrared part of the spectrum, JIRAM captures images of light emerging from deep inside Jupiter equally well, night or day.

The polar cyclones at both the poles are densely packed to such an extent that the spiral arm of one cyclone comes in contact with the other.

Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the France University, said, "This is really an awesome result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below". The observation has led Adriani to believe that not all gaseous giant planets are created equal.

Juno completed its fourth flyby to Jupiter and the imagery it sent took even the Juno science team by surprise. Juno's 11th science pass will be on April 1. Launched in 2011, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 and peering beneath the thick ammonia clouds. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops - as close as about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers). After that, a scientist at the Pasadena Laboratory in California will be having to reach a decision regarding the satellite's next mission in outer space.

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