NASA sent its Juno probe to Jupiter to explore the giant planet and unravel its hidden mysteries. It seems that the Juno spacecraft is doing a fantastic job in collecting important data through its close flybys of solar system’s largest planet. During its latest flyby, Juno managed to decode some inner secrets of the gas giant.
The Juno data revealed that the surface of Jupiter comprises of alternating dark and bright bands of gas and winds that flow in opposite direction at extremely high speed. According to the scientists, Juno’s gravity measurements indicate that this vigorous turbulent outer layer extends to a depth of 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles). Lead author of the study Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel said that Galileo viewed the stripes over Jupiter more than 400 years ago.
Kaspi said that previously they had the notion that those strips were something related to swirling clouds along Jupiter’s jets. But now, the Juno gravity measurements gave insights into how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. Juno’s latest findings were published in four papers in the journal Nature. One of those papers revealed that the Juno mission has discovered massive cyclones surrounding Jupiter’s North Pole and the South Pole which has surprised the scientists.
Lead author of the study Luciano Less, Juno co-investigator from Sapienza University of 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.” That means the asymmetry extends to much a much larger area of Jupiter than it was previously thought. Less believes the asymmetry at poles of Jupiter indicates about a deeper extension of the jet streams. “The deeper the jets, the more mass they contain, leading to a stronger signal expressed in the gravity field. Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend,” Less said.
“The result is a surprise because this indicates that the atmosphere of Jupiter is massive and extends much deeper than we previously expected,” Kaspi said. Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d’Azur said that the inner details of Jupiter decoded by Juno is amazing and also the future measurements by the space probe would help the scientists understand how the transition works between the weather and the rigid body below it.
JunoCam is a color, visible-light camera designed to capture remarkable pictures of Jupiter’s poles and cloud tops. As Juno’s eyes, it provides a wide view, helps to give context to the spacecraft’s other instruments. JunoCam was included on the spacecraft specifically for purposes of public engagement; although its images are helpful to the science team, it is not considered one of the mission’s science instruments
The Juno spacecraft took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Aug 5, 2011, and reached Jupiter after completing nearly five years long journey on July 5, 2016. Since then, the spacecraft has made several flybys of the gas giant to study its auroras and to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.
Juno’s name comes from Roman mythology. The mythical god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife — the goddess Juno — was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature.
JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.