Jupiter's Storms Extend Deep Into the Planet's Insides

Wednesday, 07 March 2018 - 6:32PM
Space
Solar System
Wednesday, 07 March 2018 - 6:32PM
Jupiter's Storms Extend Deep Into the Planet's Insides
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YouTube/NASA
Ever since the Juno space probe arrived at Jupiter in 2016, we've been learning some absolutely fascinating things about the distant gaseous planet - when we're not just admiring how beautiful it looks in motion, of course.

That motion has become the subject of a series of new papers, each of which reveals some fantastic new insights into the biggest planet in the solar system, and how its phenomenal storms actually reach down into the bowels of the world to dramatically influence its core.

Scientists had originally thought that, as Jupiter is a big ball of gas, it should probably behave as a single mass - the north and the south poles of the planet should in theory show similar behavior. It turns out that this isn't the case; instead, Jupiter's two poles both display unique conditions and an uneven gravitational field, suggesting to scientists that something weird is going on at the heart of the planet.



Jupiter's hydrogen and helium core is perplexing in and of itself, as it behaves like a solid, despite still technically being a liquid. Things get more interesting, though, as it turns out that the core is heavily influenced by the storms that rage right up at the top of the planet, which can shift Jupiter's gravitational field with their large, violent outbursts.

Here's the real kicker: apparently, the storms which can be seen from space that swirl around in cyclonic rage in Jupiter's outer atmosphere travel all the way down to the planet's core. Because there's no clear boundary between Jupiter's surface and its atmosphere, the storms are able to sink through the entire planet, messing with Jupiter's fundamental cohesion.




Jupiter's gravitational field does more than just keep its various moons in constant circulation - because the world is a constantly churning mass of gas, anything that upsets Jupiter's core will also send ripples through the entire planet, causing its storms to behave even more erratically. Thus, the storms push and shove each other, and they warp the core of the planet, and are in turn warped by the world's shifting gravity.

Infrared images of Jupiter that have been taken by Juno show just how bizarre this can look in practice. It's possible to see multiple smaller storms orbiting around a main, large cyclone, like bubbles sticking together as they swirl down a plughole, except far, far more violent and aggressive.

While Jupiter may look peaceful enough from a distance, this planet is most certainly a giant ball of rage. Perhaps it's for the best that the planet is so far away - this is one place in the solar system that's probably best observed from afar.

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