Tour Jupiter: Juno spacecraft providing 'unprecedented' info


NASA recently released never-before-seen footage of Jupiter, courtesy of the Juno spacecraft, that allows us to take a deeper look at what brews below the surface of Jupiter's atmosphere.

Jupiter is known as the gas planet in our galaxy, and NASA's findings indicate that the atmospheric winds of the planet can be found deep in its atmosphere and that these last longer inside.

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.

"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, who is working on the Juno mission from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.

As for Juno, NASA now has plans to continue using the spacecraft to reveal more of Jupiter's secrets through at least July 2018.

One group uncovered a constellation of nine cyclones over Jupiter's north pole and six over the south pole.

The poles of Jupiter are an absolute contrast to the more familiar white and orange belts and zones that circle the gas giant at lower latitudes.

A truly striking result released in the Nature papers is the attractive new imagery of Jupiter's poles captured by Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument.

And there's more. Another study using data from Juno's gravity measurements reveals that Jupiter's counterrotating stripes are a two-dimensional representation of a vast three-dimensional jet stream structure deep inside the planet, and these jets are deeply embedded within the planet's powerful gravitational field.

Adriani explained that the width of each of the northern cyclones is the distance between New York City and Naples, and the Southern cyclones are even more massive in comparison. These poles are one of a kind in the solar system, being very close to one another, having very fast winds up to 350 kph, and being very large in size. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds.

The image captures the swirling cloud formations around the south pole of Jupiter, looking up toward the equatorial region. It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition.

Yohai Kaspi, Juno's co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, said, "Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago". 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 ). Also, the Juno findings suggest that beneath the weather layer of the gas giant, the planet rotates almost as a rigid body.

The co-investigator also added that the remarkable feature about the cyclones is that they are enduring and very close together.

- said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior. There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system.