Slideshow: Cyclones churn over Jupiter's poles

09 March, 2018, 02:37 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Juno is finding weird things in Jupiter's vast cyclone clusters

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? Other research topics include better understanding the origin and driving force of the jets in Jupiter's atmosphere and measuring how Jupiter's axis moves in time, which will provide information on how density varies in the deepest layers of the planet.

"Juno is created to look beneath these clouds", admitted the professor Yohai Kaspi who was the leader of several studies and recent investigations that used the Jupiter's new gravitational forces measurements.

'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.

The research group with the collaboration of Daniele Durante and Paolo Racioppa and other researchers from Italian and foreign universities and scientific institutions, managed to establish the depth of the winds, based on the measurements of the planet's gravity carried out by the probe.

These pictures, which were taken on Jupiter's north and south poles, reveal the massive wind towers that dominate not only its upper atmosphere but also stretch deep into the planet.

Gas giant Jupiter is the largest known planet in our solar system. One suggested that the winds extend far down towards the surface, going as deep as 10000 kilometers that were driven by heat from the depths of the planet.

Data gathered also indicates that beneath the weather layer Jupiter rotates almost as a rigid body.

The lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer Yohai Kaspi talked about Jupiter's extended jets.

Juno orbits Jupiter every 53 days, and is giving researchers a chance to "see" what lies below the planet's surface.

Juno is now scheduled to remain in orbit around Jupiter until July 2018, but NASA is looking at ways to extend the mission. These atmospheric winds last longer than similar atmospheric processes found on Earth.

Jupiter is what the astronomers call a "gas giant", which is at the opposite pole of the rocky planets (Earth, Mercury, Mars, etc.) because its made of helium and hydrogen in a proportion of 99%. What they found astounded them: weird geometric arrangements of storms, each arrayed around one cyclone over the north and south poles-unlike any storm formation seen in the universe. 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.

Launched in 2011, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 and peering beneath the thick ammonia clouds.

While these storms might look like the same cyclone with branched arms, they are actually separate storms that are densely packed. The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size.

"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", Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, notes. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system", he added. At the north pole are eight storms surrounding one storm at the center while at the south pole there are five surrounding a massive storm.


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