See the Stunning Images of Juno’s First Orbit of Jupiter

NASA reveals the most surprising and interesting findings so far.

May 26, 2017 3:17 pm

Last summer, the Juno spacecraft became the first human-made object to come within 2,600 miles of Jupiter.

Scientists are still analyzing all the information Juno collected during that flight, but the first results have finally been published with two articles in Science and 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters.

So what are the highlights of the findings?

According to Popular Science, Juno is able to get 10 times closer to Jupiter’s north pole than any other spacecraft in history, showing us that the region is dotted with as many as 870 miles of oval-shaped cyclones. This is very different than Saturn’s north pole, showing that the atmospheres of the two planets are fundamentally different.

Image of Jupiter’s south pole
This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. (JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles/NASA)

Surprisingly, the atmosphere on Jupiter appears to resemble parts of Earth’s global circulation patters. But there are differences: Jupiter’s cells are much bigger and they rain out ammonia crystals instead of water, so there are ammonia storms happening on the planet.

Jupiter does knock Earth’s magnetic field out of the park, since it is roughly 10 times stronger.

But the most exciting? According to NASA astrophysicist Jack Connerney, the findings about magnetic fields takes the lead. Basically, we cannot see the dynamo (the source of the magnetic field on a planet) that’s generating our magnetic field on Earth because it’s buried too deeply. Meanwhile, Jupiter’s magnetic field is turning out to be a lot more complicated than expected, which according to Connerney, these variations may mean Juno is getting close to the dynamo. This would put Jupiter’s dynamo very close to the surface.

By piercing together data from one orbit at a time, Juno might be able to provide the first clear map of what the dynamo looks like, which would begin to answer the age-old question of how planets and stars generate magnetic fields.


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