Before the Juno spacecraft orbited Jupiter in 2016, we only had a superficial view of the planet. The measurements that NASA has taken have revealed surprising information about Jupiter's deep interior.
The Great Red Spot of Jupiter and its surrounding turbulent zones. as captured by NASAs Juno spacecraft NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
Researchers found that Jupiters Great Red Spot is deeper than they expected. This is the massive storm that has plagued the planets atmosphere for centuries. NASA's Juno spacecraft has new data that shows the planets interiors of giant planets aren't as mixed as we thought. It orbits Jupiter since 2016.
To peer under Jupiter's clouds, the Juno spacecraft used microwave measurements and measurements of Jupiter's density to take microwave readings.
According to Scott Bolton, Juno team leader at the Southwest Research Institute (Texas), this is the most detailed look that we have had into a huge planet. Before this, we had only seen skin-deep.
The Great Red Spot is located below the atmosphere's top, at about 240 kms. The storm could reach a depth of up to 500 kilometers. Two smaller storms also had roots hundreds of kilometers deep. The jet streams that form the bands of colour at Jupiter's atmosphere reach as far as 3000 km.
These depths were expected to be quite homogeneous for Jupiter, according to researchers. Bolton says that the general idea is that once the sun reaches below the clouds, it will be all vapour. It would have been expected that it would be well mixed so there wouldn't be much weather down there.
It is clear that the layers of our planet's atmosphere are interconnected, as evidenced by the fact that Jupiter's storms have roots that go so deep. Bolton says that it is clear that the layers are not isolated from one another because of its giant ball of gas.
He says that there is still much to be done in order to understand how the layers connect. Juno has many more storms to watch over the course of its remaining years, which should also help.
Journal references: Science, DOI:10.1126/science.abf1015, DOI:10.1126/science.abf1396
Subscribe to the Launchpad newsletter and take a journey across the galaxy every Friday!