NASA Releases New Images Of Gas Giant Jupiter

Clusters of cyclones churn over Jupiter

Clusters of cyclones churn over Jupiter

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. Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months.

"That is much more than anyone thought and more than what has been known from other planets in the Solar System", says Kaspi. "It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition".

This computer-generated image is based on an infrared image of Jupiter's north polar region that was acquired on February 2, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno during the spacecraft's fourth pass over Jupiter.

"Since Jupiter is basically a giant ball of gas, the initial expectation was that there would be no asymmetries in the gravity field between the north and south", said Professor Yohai Kaspi from The Weizmann Institute in Israel and lead author of the research paper recently submitted to Nature. Now, thanks to data collected by the Juno mission, scientists have been able to take a "peek" beneath the planet's surface to see just how far these belts of strong winds extend; and its far, very far.

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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.

Almost all the polar cyclones, at both the north and south pole of Jupiter, are so tightly packed that their spiral arms are in contact with the cyclone located just next to them.

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. Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, they are very close together and enduring. Like a compact series of cogs in an unimaginably large machine, vast cyclones also swirl around the north and south poles, clocking wind speeds of over 220 miles per hour (350 kilometers per hour) - wind speeds that are the equivalent of a terrestrial Category 5 hurricane.

- said Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, and lead author of the paper.

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Instead, they found an octagon-shaped grouping over the north pole, with eight cyclones surrounding one in the middle, and a pentagon-shaped batch over the south pole.

Previously there have been extensive studies of the helium-and-hydrogen planet's surface, but now gravity measurements collected by Juno indicate that this turbulent outer layer extends to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers). "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system". 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. They're also quite dense, containing some 1 percent of the planet's total mass.

Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the France University, said, "This is really an wonderful result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below".

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