This week NASA’s Juno spacecraft revealed some new stuff about Jupiter with the release of some new images, which show huge cyclones near Jupiter’s wonderous poles, as well as massive auroras.
This is the from the first big reports of Jupiter which were posted in the journal Science both here and here, explaining these new discoveries in huge detail, which come as a result of the Juno probe passing by the gas giant once every 53 days since if first arrive on Sunday, July 4th, 2016.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time that we have sent a probe to Jupiter, however, it is the first time that we have been able to get so close with so many details as Juno can capture features of the planet down to about 50km across, revealing Jupiter’s mesmerising cyclones in the image below, which is so detailed that it could be confused for a painting.
This image was taken from 5,000km above the wind-swept planet, capturing astonishingly tall, white storms that are so tall that they can be seen even on the nightside of the planet. We can also see flashes of lighting across the planet, revealing more variable weather patterns that surprised even the scientists behind Juno.
Juno continued to take some time-lapse images to reveal these enormous cyclones in greater detail, which we now know to be rotating counter-clockwise in the northern hermisphere, with storms reaching up to 1,400km wide.
That’s more than 10 times the size of the largest recording cyclone on Earth.
But it’s not just cyclones.
Scientist also found evidence for something that they are calling an “equatorial plume”, which is basically an overturning of gas that is driven by a steady upstream of ammonia from Jupiter’s equator, but the interesting thing is that it looks like a band that goes all the way round the middle of Jupiter according to the scientists.
They also recorded some more data from another instrument on Juno, which measured the magnetic field of Jupiter to find that this field was twice as strong as scientists had originally expected, about 10 times greater than the field that currently surrounds the Earth.
And with a magnetic field as big as that, you can expect some fantastic aurorae, and that’s exactly what Juno saw, detecting streams of electrons across Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.
Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said the following about these new discoveries:
“What we’ve learned so far is Earth-shattering. Or should I say, Jupiter-shattering, discoveries about its core, composition, magnetosphere, and poles are as stunning as the photographs the mission is generating.”
In the coming months, Juno will continue to stare into Jupiter’s clouds to develop a map of the planet’s interior before it succumbs to its radiation, and of course before it plunges to its death into those clouds.