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

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

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

Bands of raging winds, moving in different latitudes and partially opposite directions around the planet, form a light-dark pattern that shapes the appearance of the planet.

Likewise, observations of the atmospheric motions concluded that the planet's crisscrossing jet streams of winds extend some 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) deep, way much deeper than scientists expected. Gravity measurements collected by Juno during its close flybys of the planet have now provided an answer.

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.

Juno also snapped some awe-inspiring images of the massive cyclones that rage at Jupiter's poles. This jet stream contains an estimate of 1 percent of the planet's entire mass. Thus, by measuring the imbalance - the changes in the planet's gravitational field - the scientists' analytical tools would be able to calculate how deep the storms extend below the surface.

Another Juno result released today suggests that beneath the weather layer, the planet rotates almost as a rigid body.

"This is really an fantastic result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below", Tristan Guillot, a French scientist who helped write that paper, said in a statement. Obviously, this dwarfs anything we'd ever see here on Earth, and puts storm systems on every other planet in our Solar System to shame.

Juno's data showed a small but significant asymmetry between the gravitational field of Jupiter's northern and southern hemispheres, driven by the vast jet streams. The result confirms that the windbands are by no means just a superficial phenomenon: "The jet streams reach from the top of the cloud cover to a depth of around 3,000 kilometers", the researchers say. That might not sound like much, but it's actually a greater ratio than that of Earth.

"Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter's poles".

Fresh images reveal clusters of giant cyclones surrounding Jupiter's poles that seem to last far longer and extend far deeper than anything else in the solar system, according to NASA. They also suggest the electrical conductivity of a gas-giant planet's atmosphere is the crucial property that sets the limits for such a world's dynamic winds, as ionized gases at high pressures drag against its magnetic field. "We had the unique opportunity to compare the two planets at the same time", says Iess, who has analyzed the Cassini data with Burkhard Militzer, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Last month, Nasa revealed that the great red spot over Jupiter, its defining feature, will most likely be gone in about a decade.

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size.

"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 next-generation instruments". Scientists thought they'd find something similar to the six-sided cloud system spinning over Saturn's north pole.

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