Research

Clusters of cyclones churn over Jupiter

Clusters of cyclones churn over Jupiter

NASA's Juno Mission has captured never-before seen images of Jupiter's poles, revealing cyclones of unprecedented magnitude in our solar system.

The out-of-this-world images, which are derived from data collected from NASA's Juno spacecraft, show a multitude of massive cyclones on Jupiter, churning around the planet's north and south poles.

Using data gathered from Juno's sophisticated suite of instruments, researchers have found that Jupiter's storms aren't confined to the uppermost layers of the Jovian atmosphere. It is also estimated that the hectic and heavy atmosphere of Jupiter occupies about 1% of the total mass of the planet, occupying a much larger portion of Jupiter than astronomers have so far believed (Earth's atmosphere occupies only one millionth of its mass ).

"Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter's poles".

Scientists hope the ongoing mission's findings, which have been published in four papers in Nature, will improve understanding of Jupiter's interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

Juno ("Juno") launched in 2011, the orbit of Jupiter station out in 2016. the Unit will run until mid-2018, then it will descend into the planet's atmosphere where it will burn.

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"The deeper the jets, the more mass they contain, leading to a stronger signal expressed in the gravity field". In the northern pole, eight cyclones perimeter around the pole revolve around another cyclone, while in the south pole five such cyclones move around a sixth.

Refined measurements of Jupiter's uneven gravity field enabled the Weizmann Institute of Science's Yohai Kaspi in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues to calculate the depth of the jet streams at about 3,000 km.

"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 know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. "Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months", said Alberto Adriani, Juno's co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, in the same statement. "It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition".

We know that Jupiter is about 11 times bigger than Earth, yet its size doesn't slow its rotation; Jupiter has a rotation of 10 hours.

Using similar techniques, Juno could help scientists determine the depth of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a colossal swirling storm, Mr. Fortney said in a companion article in the journal.

It has not yet been determined if Jupiter has a solid core or not, but it has been suggested in a separate study - led by Professor Tristan Guillot of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur - that between the core (if there is one) and the circling winds, that the gas rotates more or less as a single body, nearly as if it were a solid.


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