Science

NASA presents closeup of Jupiter storms, magnetism

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset

Theory was wrong and scientists found the largest planet of the Solar System wasn’t what they expected. A peek on the inside of the orbit by the Juno spacecraft revealed stunning and unexpected systems running the gas giant. Jupiter, called the Zeus by the Greeks, as a mythological equivalent, was probed on four occasions with pole-to-pole circuits since the first one on July 4 of last year. Each mission lasts 53 Earth days and includes six hours of scanning.

The JunoCam revealed oval storms dancing across the cloudscape, while closer to the poles the shapes are twisted, with thin borders. Sights from an altitude of 52,400 kilometers (32,400 miles) weren’t ever shown in such detail, as imagery was fine-tuned with great enthusiasm and enhanced colors. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) said Juno’s elliptical polar orbit allows it to capture a glimpse of down to three kilometers per pixel.

Earlier missions were mostly focused on the equatorial plane. At the far north, or south, several patterns of features were recorded. The largest shapes tend to be chaotic, scholars said, with indications of cyclonic structure.  Jovian meteorology was discussed in Vienna in April at the annual gathering of the European Geosciences Union.

Ammonia was found in abundance around the equator while it is scarce at other places, showing a system for the weather. On the inside, however, assumptions now point to a smaller core than previously thought, thanks to gravity readings.

Furthermore, internal layers seem less regularly structured than in earlier studies. Finally, the magnetic field, which tends to extend influence far from Jupiter’s corner of the Sun’s turf, seems to be more unstable and almost two times stronger. The landmark storms are probably made of ammonia and at poles they are the size of Earth or in that range. The mysteries are only starting to unravel for astronomers and astrophysicists.

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