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Jupiter has the craziest storms seen yet, say boffins

Jupiter has the craziest storms seen yet, say boffins

Then it zooms back out. Provided their spacecraft stays healthy and funded, the Juno team is contemplating additional measurements that could further probe Jupiter's interior, such as monitoring tidal bulges raised by large moons whipping around the planet. What you see here is the heat (measured as radiance) coming out from the planet through the clouds: yellow indicates the presence of thinner clouds and dark red the thicker ones.

One of those instruments, a camera called JunoCam, has produced dozens of mesmerizing photographs of Jupiter in extraordinary detail.

Juno's other instruments are created to look deeper, beyond the beauty on the surface and into the darkness below.

It's unknown, however, how these storms hold their shape without merging into one another.

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. "The real question that we're after is, how did it form?" "How are planets really made?" They're incredibly bright, so scientists had assumed they were caused by basically the same natural mechanism that causes the brightest aurora we have on Earth.

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"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". 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.

The findings are published in four different sections of the journal Nature, and describe the planet's gravitational field, atmospheric flows, interior composition and polar cyclones. "That is much more than anyone thought and more than what has been known from other planets in the solar system", noted Kaspi. They also suggest the electrical conductivity of a gas-giant planet's atmosphere is the crucial property that sets the limits for such a world's dynamic winds, as ionized gases at high pressures drag against its magnetic field. That may not sound like a lot, but in comparison, Earth's atmosphere is less than a millionth of its total mass. The deeper the winds go, the larger the asymmetry.

"This is really an awesome result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below", said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior. The south pole is similar, but has just six cyclones surrounding the main storm.

Alan Duffy, an astrophysicist from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, who was not part of the research team, explains: "As the spacecraft orbits it builds up a map of regions that pull more strongly than others".

The probe captured data showing that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth.


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