Juno spacecraft providing 'unprecedented' info — Tour Jupiter
Mar 11 2018 by Michele Stevens
The first study, led by Luciano Ies, a professor of aerospace at the Sapienza University in Rome, shows that the gravitational field of the giant gas varies greatly from the north to the south pole, which is unexpected for a fluid planet that rotates rapidly.
These cyclones have been spotted near the planet's poles, which have been a mystery for a while now.
Using data gathered from Juno's sophisticated suite of instruments, researchers have found that Jupiter's storms aren't confined to the uppermost layers of the Jovian atmosphere.
"The result is a surprise because this indicates that the atmosphere of Jupiter is massive and extends much deeper than we previously expected", Mr. Kaspi said in an email.
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.
"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.
Juno wanders around Jupiter from 2016 with a 53-day elliptical trajectory. The wind speeds exceed Category 5 hurricane strength in places, reaching 350 kmph.
These discoveries and others are detailed in a series of papers published this month in the journal Nature.
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"Juno is created to look beneath these clouds", said planetary science professor Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led part of the research using Juno's new measurements of Jupiter's gravity.
We know that by now Juno has made around 10 passes over Jupiter, the 11 one going to happen on the 11of April.
The finding is important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving these strong jet streams. "Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months", said Alberto Adriani, Juno's co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, in the same statement.
The co-investigator also added that the remarkable feature about the cyclones is that they are enduring and very close together.
The gravity signature of the jet streams is bound with the gravity signal of Jupiter core.
The other surprise? Juno detected that underneath its colorful, violent shroud, the planet rotates almost as a rigid body. And thanks to Juno and the information the spacecraft sends back to Earth through radiowaves, scientists are able to map Jupiter's gravitational field and compile more information about the inner-workings of the planet.
The image captures the swirling cloud formations around the south pole of Jupiter, looking up toward the equatorial region. There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system.
"This is really an unbelievable result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below", 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. But, they remain distinct in spite of being so tightly spaced.