NASA Releases New Images Of Gas Giant Jupiter

Up close with Jupiter’s jet streams

NASA's Juno Mission has captured never-before seen images of Jupiter's poles, revealing cyclones of unprecedented magnitude in our solar system.

Jupiter's storms are complex beasts that defy explanation at this point. Its south pole, shown below during an earlier flyby, includes a single cyclone surrounded by five swirling counterparts with diameters for all ranging between 3,500 to 4,300 miles.

"Juno is created to look beneath these clouds", said planetary science professor Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led part of the research using Juno's new measurements of Jupiter's gravity.

Gravity measurements collected by Juno revealed the depth of the jet streams of the planet.

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

"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".

"Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago", Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, and lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer, was quoted as saying on NASA's website. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds.

Adriani explained that the width of each of the northern cyclones is the distance between New York City and Naples, and the Southern cyclones are even more massive in comparison.

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Juno's data showed that as you go deeper under the surface, Jupiter's gas becomes ionized and eventually turns into a hot, dense metallic liquid. They have very violent winds, reaching, in some cases, speeds as great as 220 miles per hour (350 kmph).

The co-investigator also added that the remarkable feature about the cyclones is that they are enduring and very close together. "Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter".

"Since Jupiter is basically a giant ball of gas, the initial expectation was that there would be no asymmetries in the gravity field between the north and south", Kaspi said. It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition. Jupiter's atmosphere takes up 1 per cent of its total mass - it might sound like a small proportion, but its huge compared to the Earth's atmosphere which is only a millionth of its total mass.

"That is much more than anyone thought and more than what has been known from other planets in the Solar System", says Kaspi.

It has not yet been determined if Jupiter has a solid core or not, but it has been suggested in a separate study - led by Professor Tristan Guillot of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur - that between the core (if there is one) and the circling winds, that the gas rotates more or less as a single body, nearly as if it were a solid.

NASA launched the Juno mission on August 5, 2011 to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter, look for solid planetary core, map magnetic field, measure water and ammonia in deep atmosphere, and observe auroras.

Through the photos, scientists can see that the planet's poles are actually a dark blue, but they are clouded by these warmer-toned cyclones-NASA has observed the storms surrounding a central spiral.

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