See a Tour of Jupiter's North Pole Cyclones From NASA's Juno Space Probe

Thursday, 12 April 2018 - 6:22PM
Space
Solar System
NASA
Thursday, 12 April 2018 - 6:22PM
See a Tour of Jupiter's North Pole Cyclones From NASA's Juno Space Probe
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM
The space probe Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 (after leaving Earth back in 2011), and it's mostly known for sending back awesome, surreal photos of the gas giant's storm clouds.

But while the photos have been nice, Juno is collecting data in other ways as well, and has a special infrared camera onboard called the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). Using JIRAM data, NASA has put together a virtual 3D tour of the massive cyclones on Jupiter's north pole in infrared, which show just how intense the planet's storms can get.

See the video below, and then we can go into more detail about what exactly you're looking at:



Jupiter's north pole is made up of about eight different cyclones circling around one massive cyclone in the middle. These outer cyclones alone range from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 kilometers) and they go at least 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) down beneath the top of Jupiter's clouds, which is the maximum range that the Juno probe can currently... well, probe. 

While the entire planet is covered with storms - including the shrinking Great Red Spot - these cyclones on the north pole function as a dynamo for Jupiter's magnetic field. Against initial expectations, Jupiter doesn't have a consistent magnetic field throughout, instead having much more complicated magnetic field in its northern hemisphere where some spots have an intense field and others don't.

Astronomers still aren't entirely sure why this would be the case, so taking data from these massive storms which connect to these magnetic fields is important. Having a web of unimaginably large cyclones around the north pole can complicate things somewhat. 



Alberto Adriani, who works on Juno from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, says Juno has uncovered a veritable gold mine of new information about Jupiter since it launched. We'd never had access to this sort of information before, as he explains in a press statement from NASA:

Opening quote
"Before Juno, we could only guess what Jupiter's poles would look like. Now, with Juno flying over the poles at a close distance it permits the collection of infrared imagery on Jupiter's polar weather patterns and its massive cyclones in unprecedented spatial resolution."
Closing quote


This is the first time we've ever gotten this detailed of a look at a planet's magnetic field beyond our own Earth. Juno has completed 11 science passes of the gas giant so far, and its 12 pass is coming up next month on May 24, 2018.

At that point, both Juno's main camera and JIRAM should have some new information and cool photos to work with.
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