Wednesday, December 8, 2021

NASA’s Juno looked under Jupiter’s clouds, and it was more hectic than they thought

Many articles are usually published immediately for large space missions. This usually happens when the entire data packet is analyzed.

The most recent set of documents comes from Jupiter’s exploration of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Thanks to this dump of data, scientists have obtained the first three-dimensional map of the atmosphere of the largest planet in the solar system.

Four major discoveries were highlighted in a NASA press release from a set of documents.

First, there are systems in Jupiter’s atmosphere similar to the “Farrell cells” that we talked about in the previous UT article.

Another has to do with one of Jupiter’s most famous features: the Great Red Spot.

The Great Red Spot, discovered over 200 years ago, is one of the most spectacular parts of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The larger the diameter of the Earth, until now there was no indication of how deep this huge “anticyclone” went into the atmosphere.

Juno shed some light on the situation, but only when she flew at 209,000 kilometers per hour (130 mph).

Fortunately, it had to do this twice, and during these overflights, the probe turned its microwave radiometer (MWR) towards the towering structure of the atmosphere.

Designed to look beneath Jupiter’s clouds, the MWR was able to determine that the Great Red Spot extended roughly 300-500 kilometers (200-300 miles) into the gas giant’s atmosphere. Smaller storms only reach the clouds for 60 km (40 mi), making the mother of all anticyclones even more gigantic than originally thought.

However, this giant atmospheric feature is just one of the well-known structures of Jupiter in its atmosphere. The other – its distinct “belts” of certain colored clouds – is formed by powerful winds blowing in opposite directions for each belt. In addition to the Ferrel cells mentioned above, the belts hide another secret under the clouds – they have transition segments very similar to a phenomenon known as thermocline here on Earth.

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Thermoclines arise where there are sharp changes in temperature in water bodies, usually in the Earth’s ocean. They are visually noticeable for their excellent optical properties when two water temperatures appear to be very visually different from each other. The analogue of Jupiter, called by its discoverers Jovicline, is similar in its changing optical properties.

According to MWR data, the belt is exceptionally bright at shallow depths in the atmosphere compared to the surrounding systems. However, at deeper levels, the surrounding systems appear brighter than the belt itself. Thermoclines have similar properties: warmer and colder water reflects light waves of different lengths in different ways.

The MWR was not the only instrument trained on Jupiter during the 37 Juno flybys.

The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) also collected data and, in particular, spent time studying cyclones located near the planet’s poles. Eight separate storms form an octagon near the North Pole, and five separate storms form a pentagon in the south.

In a typical atmospheric simulation, one of the cyclones is pulled towards the pole. However, there are cyclones at the center of each pole that cancel out this attraction, causing each storm to get stuck in the same pattern for years to come.

Juno will have many more years to appreciate these storms and other features of Jupiter and some of its surrounding moons as it continues its second extended mission in 2025.

With any luck, the spacecraft could embark on a third extended mission more than 16 years after its initial launch.

This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.

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