NASA SPACECRAFT PEERS DEEP INTO JUPITER’S STORMY ATMOSPHERIC WINDS
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