Jupiter’s massive storms observed by Juno

Scientists from NASA’s Juno mission presented images and a three-dimensional animation of giant storms at the north pole of Jupiter, the largest and most enigmatic planet in our solar system.

The scientists also presented new data on the operation of the gravitational system and the magnetic field of Jupiter in a press conference during the General Assembly of the European Union of Geosciences that is taking place this week in Vienna.

The data obtained by the Juno probe, which orbits since 2016 around the gas giant, offers unprecedented information about what is behind the thick reddish, golden and white clouds of the largest celestial body after the Sun in our solar system.

The scientists have generated three-dimensional images with the data collected by one of the instruments of the craft, which allowed to map in three dimensions the north pole of Jupiter, a planet eleven times bigger than the Earth.

That region is home to a huge central storm surrounded by eight other large storms, from 2,500 to 2,900 miles in diameter, amidst virulent atmospheric currents and tens of degrees below zero.

Jupiter is a gaseous planet, unlike rocky ones like Earth and Mars, and its composition is almost entirely hydrogen and helium.

The probe captured those images at around 30 to 43 miles below the layer of clouds that surrounds the planet, thus also honoring the name of the mission. Indeed, the probe bears the name of the Roman goddess Juno, Jupiter’s wife, who mythically had the power to see what was beyond the clouds.

“Before Juno we could only guess what Jupiter’s poles would be like,” explained Alberto Adriani, one of the mission’s scientific leaders. “With Juno’s flying over the poles at close range, infrared images can be collected of the polar weather patterns of Jupiter and its massive storm in unprecedented spatial resolution,” he added.

The Italian scientist also said that with the data they have so far, they have found the north pole of Jupiter to be “very stable” and that the storms barely move despite being constantly shaken by strong atmospheric currents.

The data of the probe, the size of a basketball court and specially prepared to withstand the hostile environment of the planet, has also allowed scientists to learn more about the strange gravitational properties of Jupiter and its rotation.

The Juno probe arrived in July 2016 to Jupiter’s orbit after five years of travel and became the solar-powered spacecraft that has traveled farthest into space.

Andrei Santov

Andrei, a sociologist by profession, born in Russia but currently located in UK, covers mostly European and Russia-related news for The Talking Democrat.