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Cyclones churning over Jupiter's poles captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft

09 March 2018, 02:33 | Marta Robbins

Juno is finding weird things in Jupiter's vast cyclone clusters

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The geometric arrays of storms is baffling as each of these storms is arrayed around one cyclone over the north and south poles-unlike any storm formation seen in the universe. This is done via radio waves: as the planet's gravity pulls on the spacecraft during its flyby, the radio signal is also shifted a bit; this shift in the wavelengths, though tiny, is measurable.

Prof. Kaspi, together with Dr. Eli Galanti, both of the Institute's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, was preparing for this analysis even before Juno was launched almost seven years ago. Juno passed closer to the planet than any other spacecraft before - sometimes only a few thousand kilometers. That might not sound like much, but it's actually a greater ratio than that of Earth. There has been disagreement over whether the planet's bands are a weather system, comparable to the Earth's jet streams, or whether they are an aspect of a deeper-seated convection system that transports energy out of the interior. The magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity indicated how deep in the planet the jet streams extend.

The team looked for anomalies - measurements that show the planet deviating from a ideal sphere. As they calculated, in these winds around one percent of the massive mass of the planet moves. Gas-giant planets more massive than Jupiter-as well as "failed stars" called brown dwarfs-should conversely have much shallower winds.

Kaspi's calculations and results from Juno revealed asymmetry in the gravitational fields between north to south. However, in 2013, while the craft was still en route to Jupiter, Prof. When the results from Juno arrived, the measurement revealed large differences in the gravity field between north and south.

Researchers say gravity measurements collected from Juno indicate the planet's turbulent outer layer extends to a depth of 1,900 miles. These clouds and winds are thought to be as old as the planet itself, but until now we haven't been able to tell what exactly lies beneath these bands that have obscured our vision of the surface for so long. Also, Jupiter's atmosphere is equivalent to about three Earth masses.

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"By contrast, Earth's atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth", said Kaspi.

"Jupiter's north pole is dominated by a central cyclone surrounded by eight circumpolar cyclones with diameters ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 km) across", the researchers said. "The Juno probe is the first space mission to use the Ka-band radio system for planetary geodesy", report Luciano Iess of Sapienza University of Rome and his colleagues. The second describes the results obtained by Prof. Everything farther down acts like a solid body but remains fluid all the way to the planet's mysterious core. The findings were confirmed with all the researchers getting the same measurements.

"Any piece of knowledge we can add in understanding Jupiter, which is very probably the first planet formed (around the Sun), is a step towards that direction".

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shown in this photo taken July 10, 2017. With further studies, they can understand the forces at play in the swirling storms.

They also didn't expect the cyclones to be so close together and so symmetrical. Outstanding young scientists from around the world pursue advanced degrees at the Weizmann Institute's Feinberg Graduate School.



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