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Odd geometric arrays of storms observed at Jupiter's poles

09 March 2018

This composite image provided by NASA, derived from data collected by the Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft, shows the central cyclone at the planet's north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it. Jupiter's poles are blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones and its atmosphere is deeper than suspected, scientists reported Wednesday. The most famous feature of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, but also noteworthy are the bands of light and dark clouds that make up what we can see of the planet from afar.

Juno's measurement of Jupiter's gravity field indicates a north-south asymmetry, similar to the asymmetry observed in its zones and belts.

"Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago", said Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, and lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer.

The research group with the collaboration of Daniele Durante and Paolo Racioppa and other researchers from Italian and foreign universities and scientific institutions, managed to establish the depth of the winds, based on the measurements of the planet's gravity carried out by the probe. "Now that we know the gravity signature of the atmosphere it will help us in better understanding the interior structure, core mass and eventually the origin of Jupiter".

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To see beneath Jupiter's veil of clouds and study its winds, the Juno team precisely measured the planet's gravitational field.

After a painstaking analysis that modeled all known sources of acceleration for Juno, including the minute contributions from sunlight warming the spacecraft, Iess's team found a large north-south asymmetry in Jupiter's gravitational field-a clear sign of material flowing beneath the cloud tops on deep atmospheric winds. As these jets flow in bands from east to west or west to east, they disrupt the even distribution of mass on the planet. Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend.

The fifth planet from our sun, gas giant Jupiter is by far the largest planet in our solar system.

Juno is now scheduled to remain in orbit around Jupiter until July 2018, but NASA is looking at ways to extend the mission. New findings suggest that the stripes extend to a depth much deeper than scientists previously estimated, helping to create a new picture of Jupiter's atmosphere as well as its inner layers.

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Jupiter is what the astronomers call a "gas giant", which is at the opposite pole of the rocky planets (Earth, Mercury, Mars, etc.) because its made of helium and hydrogen in a proportion of 99%. "Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months", Dr. Adriani said.

Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Nearly all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones.

Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. They also found that the speed of the above-mentioned winds extend some 3,000 km beneath the cloud level, dropping in intensity with altitude. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the Solar System". The northern cyclones each range from between 4,000 and 4,600 km across in size.

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Odd geometric arrays of storms observed at Jupiter's poles