Juno Finds Clusters of Cyclones on Jupiter's Poles

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A greater understanding of the physics behind the flows and dynamics of storms is helpful on every planet; though O'Neill did her PhD on the dynamics of cyclones on gas giants (including a prediction that Jupiter's poles would not look like Saturn's: "I got it...partially right", she said), she now uses similar storm modeling to study hurricanes on Earth.

Based on the asymmetry in the gravitational fields between north to south, the researchers determined that the wind belts - those stripes observed by Galileo - extend 3,000 km (almost 1,900 mi) deep.

The observations and the related study are published in journal Nature as part of a set of four papers dedicated to new observations from the Juno spacecraft.

'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.

"The answer is neither", says David Stevenson, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology who leads the Juno team studying the planet's interior. "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".

They also say the massive cyclones on the planet's north and south poles are unique - nothing in the system can compare to them. The data used in generating this image was collected by the JIRAM instrument aboard Juno during the fourth Juno pass over Jupiter on February 2, 2017.

Juno also snapped some awe-inspiring images of the massive cyclones that rage at Jupiter's poles. Both of these motions effectively either add or subtract mass in different areas and that has an effect on the planet's gravity field. Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend.

Data gathered also indicates that beneath the weather layer Jupiter rotates almost as a rigid body. "It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition", 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.

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Jupiter's storms are larger, more ferocious, and stranger to anything else that has ever been observed in the Solar System so far. Provided their spacecraft stays healthy and funded, the Juno team is contemplating additional measurements that could further probe Jupiter's interior, such as monitoring tidal bulges raised by large moons whipping around the planet. These atmospheric winds last longer than similar atmospheric processes found on Earth.

Saturn, Jupiter's gaseous neighbor, has only single cyclonic systems at each pole.

Jupiter's poles are blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones and its atmosphere is deeper than scientists suspected.

It is not known how the cyclones are formed, or how they persist without merging into one. All cyclones lasted for seven months.

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

"Each one of the northern cyclones is nearly as wide as the distance between Naples, Italy and New York City - and the southern ones are even larger than that". Like in the North, Jupiter's south pole also contains a central cyclone, but it is surrounded by five cyclones with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 km) in diameter.

While these storms might look like the same cyclone with branched arms, they are actually separate storms that are densely packed.