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NASA captures surreal image of where day meets night on Jupiter

12 March 2018

These poles are one of a kind in the solar system, being very close to one another, having very fast winds up to 350 kph, and being very large in size.

Jupiter's storms are complex beasts that defy explanation at this point.

The image captures the swirling cloud formations around the south pole of Jupiter, looking up toward the equatorial region.

Of all the images released by Juno to date, the computer-reconstructed infrared views of Jupiter's atmosphere, like the one pictured above, are particularly awe-inspiring.

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An worldwide team of physicists studied the gas giant's atmosphere by measuring its gravity field using using radio waves emitted by NASA's Juno spacecraft during close flybys. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system". Saturn actually has one hexagon-shaped storm at each pole, so why does Jupiter have more than one and why don't they merge together?

Jonathan Fortney of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the research, called the findings "extremely robust" and said they show "high-precision measurements of a planet's gravitational field can be used to answer questions of deep planetary dynamics".

In addition to the cyclones, NASA also revealed that Juno's advanced instruments have been able for the first time to peer deep into Jupiter's interior.

On a gas planet, such an asymmetry can only come from flows deep within the planet; and on Jupiter, the visible eastward and westward jet streams are likewise asymmetric north and south.

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Refined measurements of Jupiter's uneven gravity field enabled the Weizmann Institute of Science's Yohai Kaspi in Rehovot, Israel, and his colleagues to calculate the depth of the jet streams at about 3,000 km.

These discoveries and others are detailed in a series of papers published this month in the journal Nature.

"The result is a surprise because this indicates that the atmosphere of Jupiter is massive and extends much deeper than we previously expected", Mr. Kaspi said in an email. These weather systems churn down to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers), and this layer contains a huge amount of stuff - accounting for approximately 1 percent of the mass of the entire planet.

"By contrast, Earth's atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth", said Kaspi "The fact that Jupiter has such a massive region rotating in separate east-west bands is definitely a surprise".

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Another Juno result released today suggests that beneath the weather layer, the planet rotates almost as a rigid body."This is really an wonderful result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below", said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior. In the northern pole, eight cyclones perimeter around the pole revolve around another cyclone, while in the south pole five such cyclones move around a sixth.

NASA captures surreal image of where day meets night on Jupiter