Here is the atmosphere of Jupiter in 3D for the first time (Planetary Science)

NASA’s Juno mission around the largest planet in the solar system, which also sees an important scientific and technological contribution from Italy, is revealing in unprecedented detail what happens under the huge clouds of the gas giant. Alessandro Mura (Inaf): “Crucial results for our understanding of giant planets like Jupiter”

The new findings from NASA’s Juno mission provide a more accurate view of the atmosphere of Jupiter, the largest and most massive planet in the Solar System. It is now clearer the inner workings not only of the bands that envelop the planet – which take the name of belts and zones – but also of the polar cyclones and the Great Red Spot that characterize the planet. Several articles on these findings were published today in the journal Science , the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets , along with two recent publications in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.. Launched in 2011, Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016. During each scientific passage of the planet (37 to date), a series of instruments aboard the spacecraft peers under the turbulent cloud layer of the largest planet in the Solar System. .

“So far, Juno has surprised us by showing us that phenomena in Jupiter’s atmosphere develop at much greater depths than we thought,” said Scott Bolton , of the Southwest Research Institute in the United States, principal investigator of Juno and author of one of the articles. . “Now, we’re starting to put all these individual pieces together and get our first real understanding of how the fascinating and violent atmosphere of Jupiter works, in 3D.”

Juno, thanks to the Italian instrument Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper ( Jiram ), made in Italy by Leonardo under the guidance of the Italian Space Agency and the scientific responsibility of the National Institute of Astrophysics, had already discovered polygonal dispositions of gigantic cyclonic storms on both Jupiter’s poles : a structure of eight cyclones to the north and one of five to the south. Now, five years later, thanks to new observations from Jiram, the mission scientists have discovered that these atmospheric cyclones are extremely persistent, even in their ability to maintain their peculiar polygonal shape.

“Like hurricanes on Earth, these cyclones want to move towards the pole but are repelled by the cyclone located in the center of the pole. This balance is valid for both the north and south poles of Jupiter and provides an explanation of where the cyclones reside and the different number at each pole “, says Alessandro Mura of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome, co-investigator by Juno. “The Juno / Jiram observations show that Jupiter’s cyclones perturb each other, just as if there were elastic forces in between. As a result, they slowly oscillate around an equilibrium position, a property that makes us believe that these cyclones develop much deeper than we observe. ‘

Data collected by the JunoCam and the Mwr aboard Juno during a pass over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on July 11, 2017, offers us an insight into the inner workings of the giant planet’s most iconic structure in the atmosphere. Credits: Nasa / Jpl-Caltech / Swri / Mssi. Image processing: Kevin Gill Cc By

Juno’s microwave radiometer (Micro Wave Radiometer, Mwr ) is for the first time allowing mission scientists to peer beneath the cloud tops and probe the structure of its many vortices. The most famous of these is the iconic anticyclone which takes the name of the Great Red Spot. Larger than the size of the entire Earth, this bright red vortex has intrigued scientists since its discovery nearly two centuries ago.

The new results from Juno show that cyclones are warmer and with a lower atmospheric density in the upper layers and are cooler, with a higher density in the lower layers. The results also indicate that the vertical extent of these storms is much larger than expected, some extending 100km below cloud tops and others, including the Great Red Spot, extending over 350km. This unexpected discovery demonstrates that the eddies extend beyond the region where the water condenses and clouds form, below the boundary layer as far as sunlight can penetrate, heating the atmosphere.

The height and size of the Great Red Spot indicate that its mass could, in principle, be detectable in Jupiter’s gravitational field. Two close Juno flybys over Jupiter’s most famous spot provided an opportunity to search for the storm’s gravitational signature and corroborate the results of the Mwr instrument.

Artistic illustration combining an image of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft’s JunoCam with a composition of the Earth superimposed to scale on the Great Red Spot. Credits: JunoCam Image data: Nasa / Jpl-Caltech / Swri / Msss. JunoCam Image processing by Kevin M. Gill (Cc By). Earth Image: Nasa

“The precision required to study the Great Red Spot during the July 2019 flyby is astounding,” says Marzia Parisi , of Juno’s science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “With Juno traveling low above Jupiter’s clouds at around 209,000 kilometers per hour, we were able to measure velocity changes of just 0.01 millimeters per second, using a tracking antenna from the Deep Space Network’s. Goldstone, California, from a distance of over 650 million kilometers. This has allowed us to understand that the depth of the Great Red Spot is at least 500 kilometers below the highest layers of the clouds ».

Juno’s findings on polar cyclones, atmospheric circulation, and the iconic Great Red Spot are influencing our understanding of giant planets throughout the Solar System and beyond. “These results are crucial to our understanding of giant planets like Jupiter,” concludes Mura.  These recent discoveries once again demonstrate the very high scientific quality of the data obtained by the Juno spacecraft,” reiterates Giuseppe Sindoni , head of the Jiram project for the Italian Space Agency. “For the first time in history we are scrutinizing the deeper layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The analysis of the new data acquired during the extension of the mission will help us to reveal the ‘deep’ secrets of these mysterious cyclones ».

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