March 24, 2018

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Cyclones surrounding Jupiter's poles are unlike anything else encountered in solar system

09 March 2018

This composite image provided by NASA, derived from data collected by the Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft, shows the central cyclone at the planet's north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it. Jupiter's poles are blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones and its atmosphere is deeper than suspected, scientists reported Wednesday.

The surface of Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in the solar system, consists of alternating bright and dark bands of gas and winds flowing in opposite directions at massive speed.

"Following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds".

"Juno is created to look beneath these clouds", admitted the professor Yohai Kaspi who was the leader of several studies and recent investigations that used the Jupiter's new gravitational forces measurements. 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.

What lies at the center of Jupiter is also a mystery and these new findings suggest that, below the extremely dense weather layer, the gas planet rotates as a near-rigid body.

Juno also snapped some awe-inspiring images of the massive cyclones that rage at Jupiter's poles.

The winds of the planet are determined by the same laws that regulate the atmospheric circulation on the Earth where the high and low pressure zones, associated with different densities of the atmosphere, force the movement of large air masses: the deeper the winds, the greater the atmospheric masses put into motion and the greater the variation of gravity generated. Thus, by measuring the imbalance - the changes in the planet's gravitational field - the scientists' analytical tools would be able to calculate how deep the storms extend below the surface.

Another Juno result suggests that the planet rotates almost as a rigid body. "It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition", said 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.

The cyclone-infested upper atmosphere of our solar system's biggest planet has been unveiled in intricate detail, with striking new images from NASA's Juno probe.

Another of the studies in this week's journal Nature finds that Jupiter's crisscrossing east-west jet streams actually penetrate thousands of miles (kilometers) beneath the visible cloud tops. Recent data from Juno shows us that neither is the case. What they found astounded them: freakish geometric arrangements of storms, each arrayed around one cyclone over the north and south poles.

Nearly all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones. "Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months", Dr. Adriani said. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system", he added. The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size. Like in the North, Jupiter's south pole also contains a central cyclone, but it is surrounded by five cyclones with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 km) in diameter.

They are about as wide as the distance between Naples and NY, noted lead author of the research Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome.

Cyclones surrounding Jupiter's poles are unlike anything else encountered in solar system