Nasa's Juno reveals Jupiter's interior in unprecedented detail

Science								Image Source NASA  JPL-Caltech  SwRI  ASI  INAF  JIRAM

New research based on data from Nasa's Juno mission has made a few startling discoveries about the gas giant, including the fact that its storms extend for thousands of kilometers into the atmosphere. This breakthrough glimpse of the giant gas planet's interior shows there is more to Jupiter beyond its spectacular bands of clouds.

The cyclonic winds Juno discovered extend deeper into the planet than any similar weather pattern on Earth - as far as 1,900 miles, or 3,000 kilometers, into Jupiter, constituting about 1% of its mass. Next, two additional teams (one led by Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, the other by Tristan Guillot of the Côte d'Azur Observatory in France) delved deeper into complementary subsets of the data. "Until now, we only had a superficial understanding of them and have been able to relate these stripes to cloud features along Jupiter's jets. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds", said Kaspi, who likened the advancement to going from a "2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition".

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.

For the previous year and a half, the NASA spacecraft Juno has been circling Jupiter and collecting data from the turbulent planet. As these jets flow in bands from east to west or west to east, they disrupt the even distribution of mass on the planet. The magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity indicated how deep in the planet the jet streams extend.

The mission also found that the planet's interior rotates as a solid body, despite its fluid nature.

"On Jupiter, a gaseous planet without a solid surface, we can only gather information from orbit", explained the professor Luciano from the Sapienza University in Rome, talking about the Juno's importance for astronomy. Provided their spacecraft stays healthy and funded, the Juno team is contemplating additional measurements that could further probe Jupiter's interior, such as monitoring tidal bulges raised by large moons whipping around the planet.

Juno is finding weird things in Jupiter's vast cyclone clusters

JIRAM probes the weather layer down to 50 to 70 kilometres below Jupiter's cloud tops.

"They have very violent winds, reaching, in some cases, speeds as great as 220 miles per hour (350 kph)". He also thinks of them as a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown with next-generation instruments. Recent data from Juno shows us that neither is the case. Jupiter's poles were said to be blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the Solar System". 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.

Nearly all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones.

Last month, Nasa revealed that the great red spot over Jupiter, its defining feature, will most likely be gone in about a decade. On Feb. 7, Juno completed its 10th science orbit of Jupiter.

Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.

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