Weizmann scientists help unveil the depths of Jupiter's winds

10 March, 2018, 01:09 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • Juno orbiting Jupiter providing unparalleled insight into the giant planet

Among the measurements Juno beamed back to Earth are those of the planet's gravity field, sent via radio waves: As the planet's gravity pulls on the spacecraft in its flyby, the radio signal is also shifted a bit; this shift in the wavelengths, though minuscule, is measurable.

"How large these north-south asymmetries are depends on the depth of the flows", Iess said.

The wind belts that encircle the planet, explained Kaspi, are much stronger than the fiercest winds on Earth and have lasted for at least hundreds of years.

In order to take a look beneath the bands of clouds and get a better sense of what was happening closer to the surface, the team behind the Juno mission looked at the planet's gravitational field. The deeper the winds go, the larger the asymmetry.

The subject of Jupiter's core is not yet closed, and the researchers aim to analyze further measurements to see whether Jupiter has a solid core and, if so, to determine its mass. Using some of the same methods they developed to characterize the jet streams, they are trying to understand how deep this giant storm extends. The findings were confirmed with all the researchers getting the same measurements.

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These are just some of the latest findings by four worldwide research teams, based on observations by NASA's Juno spacecraft circling Jupiter. "In addition, the gravity signature of the jets is entangled with the gravity signal of the interior (e.g., Jupiter's core)".

"This is really an wonderful result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below", said lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior, Tristan Guillot. He added that the fact that Jupiter has such a huge region that rotates in separate east-west bands is a surprise. The researchers say Jupiter's atmosphere makes up about 1 percent of the planet's mass. In comparison, the Earth's atmosphere is less than one millionth of our planet's mass. They also suggest the electrical conductivity of a gas-giant planet's atmosphere is the crucial property that sets the limits for such a world's dynamic winds, as ionized gases at high pressures drag against its magnetic field.

Among the scientific mysteries uncovered are freakish geometric constellations of cyclones on both of Jupiter's poles. The south pole is similar, but has just six cyclones surrounding the main storm.

They're puzzled that the massive storms don't seem to change position much or merge. And the more they look, the more scientists learn that Jupiter is weirder than anyone thought. Lead author Alberto Adriani of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics told Seeker that he suspects the cyclones could be as long-lived as Jupiter's other famous storms, such as the Great Red Spot.

NASA spacecraft Juno has collected new data on its mission to Jupiter revealing some of the swirling inner mysteries of the giant gas-planet. "I do not foresee another leap in knowledge on Jupiter's interior after the Juno mission ends, unless astronomers are able to study the planet's internal oscillations, as has been done for the Sun".



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