The Juno spacecraft, sent by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) over the solar system’s gas planet Jupiter, has revealed atmospheric winds on the planet, thus completely changing the perspective of it.
The data collected by Juno spacecraft indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas giant run deep into its atmosphere, and also that they last longer than similar atmospheric processes found on Earth.
The findings, overall, are set to improve the understanding of the planet’s interior structure, core mass, and ultimately, its origin. The scientists on the Juno spacecraft released some results on Sunday which include massive cyclones which surround the planet’s north and south poles continuing atmospheric features, which is unlike anything else seen in the solar system.
The findings are a part of the four-article collection on Juno science results being published in journal ‘Nature’, which will be published on March 8.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said, “These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter’s curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments. Juno’s unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries. Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter.”
The depth of the Jupiter’s zones and belts has been a mystery for the scientists at NASA since decades. The gravity measurements collected by Juno spacecraft have provided answers to them.
Luciano Less, co-investigator from Sapienza University in Rome said, “Juno’s measurement of Jupiter’s gravity field indicates a north-south asymmetry, similar to the asymmetry observed in its zones and belts.” Less is also the lead author of a paper included in the journal ‘Nature’.
Yohai Kaspi, Juno’s co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, said, “Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago. Until now, we only had a superficial understanding of them and have been able to relate these stripes to cloud features along Jupiter’s jets. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. It’s like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition.”
The results given by Juno spacecraft came as a surprise to the NASA team as it indicated that the weather layer of the Jupiter was more massive, extending much deeper than expected. The Jovian weather layer contains about one per cent of the Jupiter’s mass, which is about three times the Earth’s mass, and deepens to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers).
Kaspi said, “By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth. The fact that Jupiter has such a massive region rotating in separate east-west bands is definitely a surprise.”
The findings are important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving the strong jet streams. Another result shows that the planet rotates nearly as a rigid body, with the weather layer beneath it.
Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the France University, said, “This is really an amazing result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below. Juno’s discovery has implications for other worlds in our solar system and beyond. Our results imply that the outer differentially-rotating region should be at least three times deeper in Saturn and shallower in massive giant planets and brown dwarf stars.”