NASA's Juno Peered Beneath Jupiter's Clouds, And It's More Hectic Than They Thought

For large space exploration missions, many papers are often released simultaneously. This is usually when all data have been analyzed.
Juno's Jupiter atmosphere explorations produced the most recent set. Scientists now have the first 3D mapping of the atmosphere on the largest planet in the Solar System thanks to this data dump.

NASA's press release for the set of papers highlighted four major discoveries.

First, Jupiter's atmosphere has systems similar to Farrell cells. We covered this in a previous UT article.

Another is the Great Red Spot, one of Jupiter's most iconic features.

The Great Red Spot, discovered over 200 years ago is one of the most remarkable parts of Jupiter's atmosphere. Despite being larger than the Earth's diameter, no information was available about how far this massive "anticyclone", protruded into the atmosphere.

Juno shed light on the situation but only as it passed at 209,000 km/h (130 miles/h).

It was able to accomplish this feat twice and, during these flybys, it turned its microwave radiometer, MWR, towards the massive atmospheric structure.

MWR was designed to see beneath Jupiter's clouds and it was able to show that the Great Red Spot stretches between 300-500 km (200-300 mi) into Jupiter's atmosphere. Minor storms can only reach 60 km (40 mi) below the clouds, making the mother anticyclone even larger than originally thought.

This giant atmospheric feature is just one of Jupiter's most well-known patterns. The powerful winds blowing in the opposite direction for each belt create another distinct "belt" of colored clouds. The belts not only create the Ferrel cells, but also hide another secret beneath the clouds. They have transition segments that are very similar to the phenomenon called thermoclines.

Thermoclines are extreme temperature changes in water bodies, often the ocean. These are easily visible due to their distinctive optical properties. The two temperatures of water look very different visually. The Jovicline, Jupiter's analog was named by its discoverers is similar in its changing optical characteristics.

MWR's data shows that the belt shines brightly at shallow depths in comparison to surrounding systems. At deeper depths, however, the surrounding systems are brighter than the belt. Thermoclines share similar properties. Warmer and colder water reflect different wavelengths of light in different ways.

MWR wasn’t the only instrument that was trained on Jupiter in Juno’s 37 flybys.

The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), which was also collecting data, spent time looking at cyclones near the planet's poles. Eight distinct storms make up an octagon at the north pole. Five distinct storms make up the pentagon south.

In atmospheric modeling, one of the cyclones would pull poleward. There are however cyclones that sit at the poles that counter that pull. This means that each storm will remain in the same pattern for many years.

Juno will continue its extended mission for well into 2025, and Juno will still have many years to evaluate the storms and other features that Jupiter and its moons has to offer.

If the spacecraft is lucky, it can be extended for another 16 years.

Universe Today originally published this article. You can read the original article.