Jupiter is full of mysteries: NASA looked inside the planet


These are just some of the discoveries reported by four worldwide research teams, based on observations by NASA's Juno spacecraft circling Jupiter.

The first study, led by Luciano Ies, a professor of aerospace at the Sapienza University in Rome, shows that the gravitational field of the giant gas varies greatly from the north to the south pole, which is unexpected for a fluid planet that rotates rapidly.

"Since Jupiter is basically a giant ball of gas, the initial expectation was that there would be no asymmetries in the gravity field between the north and south", Kaspi said.

Before Juno reached its target in 2016, it was not known whether the colourful bands wrapped around Jupiter were just a pretty surface phenomenon, or whether they were enormous deep layers penetrating down into the abyss below.

New evidence suggests that Jupiter - the planet is more complex than previously thought. This is accredited to NASA'S Juno mission orbit, which is unlike Earth and other spacecraft orbits that only allow the sighting of Jupiter's equatorial regions.

"Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago", 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, was quoted as saying on NASA's website.

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"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".

By better understanding these strong jet streams and the gravity field, Mr. Kaspi said scientists can better decipher the core of Jupiter. This is because the deeper the jets, the more massive they are. The poles are dominated by central cyclones - the north pole's has eight circumpolar cyclones ranging in diameter from 2,500 to 2,900 mi (4,000 to 4,600 km) and the south has five cyclones that are 3,500 to 4,300 mi (5,600 to 7,000 km) wide. Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument can measure the planet's heat percolating through the atmosphere, probing the weather systems up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) below, day or night. "Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months", says Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology in Italy.

Using similar techniques, Juno could help scientists determine the depth of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a colossal swirling storm, Mr. Fortney said in a companion article in the journal.

We know that Jupiter is about 11 times bigger than Earth, yet its size doesn't slow its rotation; Jupiter has a rotation of 10 hours.

"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 Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior.