Jupiter Cyclone Storms Captured By Juno In Another Stunning Image

Posted March 09, 2018

Juno is a NASA spacecraft that has been orbiting around the gas giant, Jupiter, since 2016. Are the colorful bands, caused by belts of strong winds circling the planet, just a pretty surface phenomenon, or are they a significant stratum of the planet?

"The result is a surprise because this indicates that the atmosphere of Jupiter is massive and extends much deeper than we previously expected", says Yohai Kaspi of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences of Weizmann Institute of Science in 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.

Using high-precision gravitational measurements, Juno has produced findings that show the inner 96% of the planet rotates "as a solid body", even if this is made of an extremely dense mixture of hydrogen and helium. Based on Juno's measurements, the scientists found out that hydrogen and helium gases make up the planet's core and beneath the layer of atmosphere, Jupiter rotates as a solid mass of ball.

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Other Juno science results released on Wednesday include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter's north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system. Data collected by Juno is also giving insight into the roots of the zones and belts of Jupiter.

One group uncovered a constellation of nine cyclones over Jupiter's north pole and six over the south pole. There has been disagreement over whether the planet's bands are a weather system, comparable to the Earth's jet streams, or whether they are an aspect of a deeper-seated convection system that transports energy out of the interior. Using this data, the researchers determined that the wind belts - these stripes observed by Galileo - extend 3,000 km deep.

Juno is now scheduled to remain in orbit around Jupiter until July 2018, but NASA is looking at ways to extend the mission. JIRAM probes the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below Jupiter's cloud tops. Kaspi, are much stronger than the fiercest winds on Earth, and they have lasted for at least hundreds of years.

Clusters of cyclones encircling Jupiter's poles.

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While these storms might look like the same cyclone with branched arms, they are actually separate storms that are densely packed. They also suggest the electrical conductivity of a gas-giant planet's atmosphere is the crucial property that sets the limits for such a world's dynamic winds, as ionized gases at high pressures drag against its magnetic field. "We used this radio link between Juno and Earth to measure the velocity of the spacecraft to exquisite accuracy-to 0.01 millimeter per second or better", Iess says. However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations detailed in the paper.

When the Juno mission was successfully launched in 2011, astronomers worldwide were thrilled.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size.

There are eight cyclones around the north pole and five around the south pole.

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