Juno, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, is best known to the public for the beautiful images of the planet captured by its JunoCam. But much of that recent research has been done using another of Juno’s instruments: its microwave radiometer (MWR) which can look through the clouds surrounding the planet and see more. deep in its atmosphere.
“Previously, Juno surprised us by hinting that the phenomena in Jupiter’s atmosphere were deeper than expected,” said Scott Bolton, senior Juno researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and senior author of one of the new articles. “Now we’re starting to put all of these individual pieces together and get our first real understanding of how Jupiter’s beautiful and violent atmosphere works – in 3D. “
Jupiter’s atmosphere is home to huge storms that are hot and thinner above, and cooler and denser below. These epic cyclones go up to 60 miles in the atmosphere. And Jupiter’s most famous storm – its awe-inspiring Great Red Spot – stretches over 200 miles across. It’s so large that researchers have been able to detect changes in its speed using instruments that study the planet’s gravity.
“The accuracy required to obtain the gravity of the Great Red Spot during the July 2019 flyby is astounding,” said Marzia Parisi, Juno scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of an article in the Science journal on the gravity flyovers of the Great Red Spot. “Being able to complement MWR’s discoveries at depth gives us great confidence that future gravity experiments at Jupiter will yield equally intriguing results. “
Other articles covered the atmospheric belts that give the planet its distinctive appearance, and the bizarre geometric storms at its poles.
“These new observations from Juno open a treasure chest of new information about the enigmatic observable features of Jupiter,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Each article sheds light on different aspects of the planet’s atmospheric processes – a wonderful example of how our internationally diverse scientific teams are strengthening understanding of our solar system. “