Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
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NASA Releases New Images Of Gas Giant Jupiter

NASA Releases New Images Of Gas Giant Jupiter

Photo of cyclones on Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft.

The dynamics of the storms in the south and north poles of the world are mysterious, and scientists aren't sure how they formed or how they have persisted.

NASA recently released never-before-seen footage of Jupiter, courtesy of the Juno spacecraft, that allows us to take a deeper look at what brews below the surface of Jupiter's atmosphere. Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument can measure the planet's heat percolating through the atmosphere, probing the weather systems up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) below, day or night.

For hundreds of years, this gaseous giant planet appeared shrouded in colorful bands of clouds extending from dusk to dawn, referred to as zones and belts.

And there's more. Another study using data from Juno's gravity measurements reveals that Jupiter's counterrotating stripes are a two-dimensional representation of a vast three-dimensional jet stream structure deep inside the planet, and these jets are deeply embedded within the planet's powerful gravitational field. "Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds", said Kaspi, who likened the advancement to going from a "2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition".

As for Juno, NASA now has plans to continue using the spacecraft to reveal more of Jupiter's secrets through at least July 2018. The Jovian weather layer contains about one per cent of the Jupiter's mass, which is about three times the Earth's mass, and deepens to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers). 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.

The findings are important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving the strong jet streams. It's only the second spacecraft to circle the planet; Galileo did it from 1995 to 2003. Like a compact series of cogs in an unimaginably large machine, vast cyclones also swirl around the north and south poles, clocking wind speeds of over 220 miles per hour (350 kilometers per hour) - wind speeds that are the equivalent of a terrestrial Category 5 hurricane.

To date, Juno has completed 10 science passes over Jupiter and logged nearly 122 million miles (200 million kilometers), since entering Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016. Since details about anything Jupiter related have always been a complete mystery for scientists, these new measurements done by Juno shed some light on a couple of topics. Launched in 2011, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 and peering beneath the thick ammonia clouds.

NASA's photo technology is rapidly advancing, allowing for scientific exploration that satisfies previously unanswerable questions about the mysterious outer space, and this information may just be "the key to understanding how other gas giant planets work".

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