Israeli scientists discover depth of Jupiter's strong winds

  • Israeli scientists discover depth of Jupiter's strong winds

Israeli scientists discover depth of Jupiter's strong winds

Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System and NASA's Juno probe orbiting the gas giant has delivered some stunning images time and time again.

Until now, scientists have had scant information about what lies below Jupiter's thick red, brown, yellow and white clouds, and a surface famed for its distinctive dark and light bands and "great red spot". Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds.

Other observations included a rash of massive cyclones at the planet's poles, the likes of which have not been observed on any other Solar System planet. Based on Juno's measurements, the scientists found out that hydrogen and helium gases make up the planet's core and beneath the layer of atmosphere, Jupiter rotates as a solid mass of ball. "Juno's discovery has implications for other worlds in our solar system and beyond".

David Stevenson, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology who led the team that was studying the results from Juno's orbit around Jupiter, stated in recently published papers that the winds extend downwards about 3000 kilometers - coming in between the two situations that were previously theorized.

This picture of the Jupiter's South Pole is a mosaic of many images acquired by the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper on board the Juno shuttle. Gravity measurements collected by Juno during its close flybys of the planet have now provided an answer. In another paper, it is estimated that Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere involves about 1 per cent of the its total mass.

An illustration depicting the U.S. space agency's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

"They are extraordinarily stable arrangements of such chaotic elements", says Morgan O'Neill, a University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar and a coauthor on paper "Clusters of cyclones encircling Jupiter's poles".

NASA's Juno probe is frequently giving NASA's astronomers very valuable information about Jupiter's structure, atmosphere, and dynamics.

"We're at the beginning of dissecting Jupiter", says Juno mission leader Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

Jupiter's atmospheric jet streams extend thousands of kilometres deep. "The remarkable thing about this", says Dr. Galanti, "is that we were able to directly measure the signature of the flows themselves".

A truly striking result released in the Nature papers is the lovely new imagery of Jupiter's poles captured by Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument.

Kaspi added that the results were surprising because they indicate that the atmosphere of Jupiter is more massive and extends much deeper than theorized. That might not sound like much, but it's actually a greater ratio than that of Earth. However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations detailed in the paper.

Nearly all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones. At the north pole, eight swirling storms circled another storm at the center, and at the south pole, another five storms encircle a central vortex.