We have recently received spectacular images of Jupiter and its poles, enjoying the magnificent view of this gas giant. Now, the first scientific results from the Juno mission have been released and presented at the annual European Geosciences Union in Vienna this week.
After being in orbit around Jupiter for nearly a year, Juno sends a bunch of data, which are finally analyzed. Our knowledge and understanding of gaseous planets are in front of one more challenge. As is common in planetary science, the new findings include significant surprises.
Ammonia Weather And Fuzzy Core
Previous observations of Jupiter from the Galileo spacecraft suggested that Jupiter was made mostly of a uniform interior with a solid core of metallic hydrogen. However, data from the Juno indicating something else. Instead of a solid core, the data suggests that Jupiter has a more “fuzzy” core, mixing with a layer of metallic hydrogen above.
The second surprise is the weather. We have already known that Jupiter is completely covered in ammonia clouds, but we overlooked the amount of ammonia presence. It turns out that there is a high density of ammonia around the Jupiter’s equator. Similar dense zones are spotted in other parts of the planet, suggesting an ammonia-based weather system.
Jupiter Has Massive Magnetism
The big planets usually have a strong magnetic field. Jupiter isn’t an exception. Yet scientists are slightly shocked by the massiveness of its magnetic field. The strength of the magnetic field was previously estimated to be about 5 gauss, but Juno’s magnetometers found it to be possibly as high as 8-9 gauss.
Also, a magnetic field is much more irregular than first thought. The field appears to be uneven in places, which means that unlike the Earth, a magnetic field is generated closer to the surface rather than deep near the core. Jupiter’s magnetic field is spatially complex, and there were deficits of up to 2 gauss elsewhere. We may need much more orbits to resolve this, said Jack Connerney.
Beside findings of the ammonia weather system and enormous magnetic field, Juno discovers unseen swirling cyclones in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Although similar to the cyclones on Earth, these cyclones are the size of Earth.
Juno’s next closest approach to Jupiter, the sixth flyby, will be on May 19, which will include flying over the Great Red Spot, the most well-known feature on Jupiter. Astrophysicists are excited to finally find out what’s going on underneath the long-lived storm.