NASA Images Reveal Surprising Details About Jupiter’s Cyclones

Posted: Mar 13 2018, 10:34am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 13 2018, 10:46am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

NASA Images Reveal Surprising Details about Jupiter’s Cyclones

Data collected by Juno suggest that the atmosphere of Jupiter is complex and extends much deeper than previously thought

New Juno images reveal that Jupiter cyclones penetrate deep into the planet’s atmosphere and last longer than expected. The findings are surprising and can provide more insight into the forces driving the planet’s cyclone clusters.

Jupiter’s north and south poles are covered by massive cyclones. Although they are one of the most prominent features of the planet, their origin and inner workings are still a mystery. Until now, researchers haven't been able to confirm whether those cyclones are limited to the upper layer or extend deep down.

“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,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute.

“Juno's unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries. Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter."

NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered the Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016 and has been studying the planet’s atmosphere ever since. The spacecraft has already made plenty of groundbreaking discoveries. In fact, the clusters of cyclones that whirl around Jupiter’s poles were first detected by Juno.

In the latest effort, a team of researchers explored a constellation of nine cyclones over Jupiter's north pole and six over the south pole. Each cyclone is several thousand miles across and their wind speed can reach 220 mph in some places, making them more powerful than a Category 5 hurricane. Researchers found that cyclones on Jupiter’s north pole don't look similar to the ones on the south pole. Jupiter’s north pole contains octagon-shaped cyclone clusters, with eight cyclones surrounding one in the middle, while its south pole has pentagon-shaped grouping. These cyclones haven't changed position or merged throughout the study period.

Another surprise comes from refined measurements of Jupiter's uneven gravity field. The calculations suggest that Jupiter’s jet streams go about 3,000 kilometers down, much deeper than anticipated.

“Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago," said lead author Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel "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. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we now know how deep the jet extends and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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