Jupiter revealed: NASA mission finds swirling storms at poles, weird magnetic fields

Jupiter revealed: NASA mission finds swirling storms at poles, weird magnetic fields

Taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft, this image highlights a swirling storm just south of one of the white oval cyclones on Jupiter.

The Juno mission, which launched in 2011 and began its first orbit past year, allows scientists to view Jupiter in new ways because of the spacecraft's highly elliptical orbit: it passes over the planet's poles and dives within 3100 miles of its cloud tops.

They show that both of Jupiter's poles are covered in huge storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together. The diameters of some of these cyclones stretch 870 miles (1,400 kilometers).

Juno's findings are "really going to force us to rethink not only how Jupiter works, but how do we explore Saturn, Uranus and Neptune", Bolton said.

A NASA mission to Jupiter that reached the planet past year has changed the way scientists view the largest planet in the solar system, showing polar cyclones the size of Earth and a giant "lumpy" magnetic field.

Juno speeds by the poles, under those fields, in a two-hour plunge every 53 days, gathering information with an array of instruments and images with its JunoCam.

With dozens of cyclones hundreds of miles across - alongside unidentifiable weather systems stretching thousands of miles - the poles look nothing like Jupiter's equatorial region, instantly recognizable by its stripes and Great Red Spot, a raging hurricane-like storm. Juno is the first spacecraft to fly around the planet's polar axis and the view from there could not be more different than the familiar image of Jupiter with its red spot that fills textbooks everywhere. Gauss is a standard unit of measurement for magnetic induction, and this figure makes Jupiter's magnetic field 10 times stronger than any found on Earth. "It's very different, very complex", said Juno's chief scientist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute.

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Juno's mission so far has seen it take a polar orbit around the gas giant.

The first wave of scientific data collected by NASA's Juno probe has been relayed to scientists, revealing a handful of Jovian surprises.

The findings released on Thursday were based on data collected when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 km) around Jupiter's poles on August 27.

Things got even weirder in the second study, when Juno took a closer look at Jupiter's magnetic field - the largest object in the Solar System. But scientists are curious about the "lumpiness" of the magnetic field which causes these auroras because it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.

"That's the Jupiter we've all known and grown to love", Bolton told reporters. The mission had an encounter with the planet's "bow shock", akin to a type of stationary shockwave, when exploring Jupiter's magnetosphere. Learning about Jupiter's history should yield insights about planet formation and solar-system evolution in general, mission team members have said.

The spacecraft has been using eight instruments to examine the composition of Jupiter and its interior structure, along with its gravitational and magnetic fields since its arrival on July 4, 2016, Space.com reported.

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