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New findings from NASA’s Juno provide a fuller picture of Jupiter’s colourful and distinctive atmospheric features. It also offers an idea about the unseen process below its clouds. The inner workings of the belts and zones of clouds encircling the planet, and its polar cyclones and even the Great Red Spot. These new observations from the spacecraft gave new information about enigmatic observable features.  In the new search paper published, each paper sheds light on different aspects of the planet’s atmospheric processes. Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016. During each of the Juno’s 37 passes of the planet to date, a specialized suite of instruments has peered below its turbulent cloud deck.

Earlier the spacecraft provided hints that phenomena in Jupiter’s atmosphere went deeper than expected.  According to NASA scientists now they are starting to put all these individual pieces together and getting the 1st understanding of how the planet’s beautiful and violent atmosphere works in 3D. The planet microwave radiometer allows mission scientists to peer beneath the planet’s cloud tops and probe the structure of its numerous vortex storms. The most famous of these storms is the Great Red Spot.

As per the new results, the cyclones are warmer on top, with lower atmospheric densities and they are colder at the bottom with higher densities. Anticyclones are colder at the top but warmer at the bottom. These storms are far taller than expected, with some extending 60 miles below the cloud tops and others.  The regions beyond those where clouds form and water condenses were covered by vortices, below the depth where sunlight warms the atmosphere.  The Great Red Spot height and size means the instruments studying Jupiter’s gravity field could detect the concentration of atmospheric mass within the storm. The scientists by using NASA’s Deep Space Network tracking antenna were able to measure velocity changes as small as 0.01 millimetres per second from a distance of more than 400 million miles.

The climate is known for its distinctive belts and zones, white and reddish bands of clouds that wrap around the planet. The bands are separated by strong east-west winds moving in opposite directions. It was previously discovered that these winds, or jet streams, reach depths of about 2,000 miles. How jet streams form is still a mystery that scientists are still trying to solve.  During multiple passes data collected by the spacecraft’s MWR reveals that the atmosphere’s ammonia gas travels up and down with the observed jet streams in remarkable alignment.

The belts and zones undergo a transition around 40 miles beneath the planet’s water clouds. At shallow depths, as compared to the neighbouring zones, the belts of the planet are brighter in microwave light. But at deeper levels, below the water clouds, the opposite is true. Previously the spacecraft discovered polygonally arrangements of giant cyclonic storms at both of Jupiter’s poles. Five are arranged in a pentagonal pattern in the south and eight are arranged in an octagonal pattern in the north.  The observations by the spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper which is being used by the scientists reveal that these atmospheric phenomena are extremely resilient, remaining in the same location.

 

 

 

 

About the author

Tina Hayden

Tina is a freelance writer based in Maine. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism at Temple University. She has written several high-level documentations for local magazine. She loves to travel and vlog her vacations when she is not writing. [email protected]

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