Juno Mission Team Reports New Results from Jupiter

NASA mission discovers Jupiter's inner secrets

"This matters", Stevenson says, "because it helps us understand how the planet works". When Juno arrived at the planet, it revealed massive cyclones at the polar regions.

NASA's Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016 and has provided some of the first clear views of the planet's poles. But once every orbit, the spacecraft comes swooping toward Jupiter and directs its instruments-protected by 400 pounds of titanium-toward the perpetually stormy clouds that cover its surface.

Researchers poring over these datasets are finally uncovering some of the planet's mysteries. Yohai Kaspi and Eli Galanti of Israel's Weizmann Institute, along with Prof. And the more they look, the more scientists learn that Jupiter is weirder than anyone thought. New findings suggest that the stripes extend to a depth much deeper than scientists previously estimated, helping to create a new picture of Jupiter's atmosphere as well as its inner layers. Those eight circumpolar cycles that surround the larger central cyclone on the planet's north pole are 2,500 to 2,900 miles in diameter.

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The discoveries include clusters of cyclones - nine at the North Pole and six at the South Pole.

An global team of researchers analysed data from the Juno spacecraft and found a constellation of nine extremely powerful cyclones over Jupiter's north pole and six over the south pole. And since the flybys are in different orbits each time, they can sample the gravitational field of different parts of the planet. At the south pole, five massive storms are arranged in a pentagon-like shape around a storm.

Up to a depth of about 3,000 km, Juno's data showed, Jupiter comprises a psychedelic swirl of cloud bands and jet streams blown by powerful winds, in opposite directions and at different speeds. At that boundary, atmospheric pressures 100,000 times higher than those at Earth's surface strip protons and electrons from the planet's hydrogen. According to Nasa, the winds in Jupiter not only run deep into the atmosphere, they also last longer than similar processes here on Earth. "This was certainly a surprise". "The remarkable thing about this", said Galanti, "is that we were able to directly measure the signature of the flows themselves". While that may not sound like much, Earth's atmosphere, by comparison, is less than one millionth the mass of the planet.

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Jupiter's gravitational field is famously asymmetrical, which is unusual for fast-rotating and oblate (squashed at the poles) gas giants.

"The more profound the planes, the more mass they contain, prompting a more grounded flag communicated in the gravity field". The magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity indicated how deep in the planet the jet streams extend. By measuring the difference in frequencies between transmitted and received signals, Iess was able to infer minute changes in the probe's speed, caused by variation in Jupiter's gravitational field. When the results from Juno arrived, the measurement revealed large differences in the gravity field between north and south.

"This is an important finding from Juno", says Iess. Galileo observed the planet's stripes in the early 17th century.

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