NASA SPACE­CRAFT PEERS DEEP INTO JUPITER’S STORMY AT­MO­SPHERIC WINDS

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

This breath­tak­ing snap of Jupiter’s tu­mul­tuous north pole was cap­tured by the Jo­vian In­frared Auro­ral Map­per (JIRAM) in­stru­ment in NASA’s Juno space probe on a re­cent flyby. It shows a swirling mass of cy­clonic storms un­like any­thing else so far en­coun­tered in our So­lar Sys­tem.

Since en­ter­ing Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016, Juno has com­pleted 10 passes over the planet, prob­ing deep be­neath the cloud cover into the atmosphere be­low and study­ing its auro­ras, struc­ture and weather sys­tems.

The new data shows tur­bu­lent cy­clones that stretch deep down into the planet’s atmosphere and per­sist far longer than any com­pa­ra­ble sys­tems found on Earth. Its north pole is dom­i­nated by a cen­tral cy­clone sur­rounded by eight cir­cum­po­lar cy­clones, while its south pole con­tains a cen­tral cy­clone sur­rounded by five smaller cy­clones.

“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 nextgen­er­a­tion in­stru­ments,” said Juno’s prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Dr Scott Bolton. “Juno is only about one-third the way through its pri­mary mis­sion, and al­ready we are see­ing the be­gin­nings of a new Jupiter.”

Pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis of other data col­lected by Juno sug­gests that be­neath the stormy, swirling ex­te­rior the planet ro­tates as a sin­gle body, but has a liq­uid rather than solid core.

“This is an amaz­ing re­sult, and fu­ture mea­sure­ments will help us un­der­stand how the tran­si­tion works be­tween the weather layer and the rigid body be­low,” said Tris­tan Guil­lot, another of the Juno team. “Juno’s dis­cov­ery has im­pli­ca­tions for other worlds in our So­lar Sys­tem and be­yond. Our re­sults im­ply that the outer, dif­fer­en­tially ro­tat­ing re­gion should be at least three times deeper in Saturn, and shal­lower in mas­sive gi­ant plan­ets and brown dwarf stars.”

Each of th­ese cir­cles in Jupiter’s north pole is a cy­clone, dom­i­nated by a mega-cy­clone at the cen­tre

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