Jupiter's turbulent interior revealed by Juno spacecraft

Ismael LynchMar 10, 2018

Scientists had expected Jupiter to have either a dense core of heavy elements or no core at all, but Juno showed it's probably something in the middle-a "fuzzy", partially dissolved core-and much bigger than they anticipated. And it is very unusual.

Experts say technology could be making us worse drivers, researchers highlight the gender disparity in kidney donations, and the Juno orbiter captures clusters of cyclones on Jupiter.

Based on the asymmetry in the gravitational fields between north to south, the researchers determined that the wind belts - these stripes observed by Galileo - extend 3,000 km. deep.

That's on a planet which is 140,000km wide. If the winds were deep - say, 2,000 miles - the asymmetry of the gravity field is large. It's 1% of the mass of the planet.

The Jovian weather layer, from its very top to a depth of 3,000 kilometres, contains about one per cent of Jupiter's mass (about three Earth masses).

While Jupiter's upper atmosphere has been extensively studied already, what lies beneath has been shrouded in mystery - and a lot of gas - until now. Tristan Guillot of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur. Further towards the centre, the pressure and temperature increase even further, and the hydrogen starts behaving like a metal.

The mission additionally found that the planet's inside pivots as a strong body, in spite of its liquid nature. These charged particles drag against Jupiter's powerful magnetic field, dampening the winds.

The jury's still out on whether Jupiter has a rocky core. One of these was the question of what lay at its elusive poles. The US space agency will soon need to approve a funded extension to Juno's stay. Juno swings around the planet on an elliptical orbit about once every 53.5 days.

An illustration depicting the USA space agency's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

The enormous storms haven't altered position or amalgamate since observations commenced. Additional gravity measurements may find it descends further still. But Jupiter's polar storms have turned out to be completely different.

Jupiter has the strangest storm behavior observed to date, with formation patterns that have never been seen elsewhere.

Their newest report, released Wednesday and spread across several papers in the journal Nature, reveals even more surprises.

"Since Jupiter is basically a giant ball of gas", said Kaspi, "the initial expectation was that there would be no asymmetries in the gravity field between the north and south". Over the seven months that Adriani and his team tracked the cyclones around the North Pole, they found that the storms drifted only very slowly eastwards and didn't change their overall shape at all.

Alberto Adriani, the lead author on the paper from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Italy, said: "Each one of the northern cyclones is nearly as wide as the distance between Naples, Italy, and New York City - and the southern ones are even larger than that". The wind speeds of some of the giant storms exceed Category 5 hurricane strength (350 km/h). "This matters", Stevenson says, "because it helps us understand how the planet works". The investigation using Juno points to the latter. - AFP picThe findings were the result of unparalleled measurements of Jupiter's gravity field by Juno, in orbit around the closest gas giant to Earth since July 2016.

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