NASA has received the first results from its Juno mission to Jupiter, and the findings are surprising. Researchers long held certain assumptions about Jupiter, things that Juno’s early findings have challenged. One of the surprising discoveries were the massive storms on the planet, ones with cyclones as large as our own planet. As well, current measurements indicate that Jupiter’s magnetic field is much stronger than expected.
NASA’s Juno mission started in August 2011; the spaceship finally entered Jupiter’s orbit last summer, and now researchers have received the earliest findings. NASA’s Juno program executive Diane Brown said, “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”
We’ve seen photos of the stunning storms on Jupiter before, but now we know a bit more about them. The planet’s polar cyclones, for starters, are massive, measuring in at sizes equivalent to planet Earth. NASA describes the storms as being ‘densely clustered and rubbing together,’ though information about how they work, exactly, are still unknown. The storms’ stability, formation, and more are all mysteries for now.
This isn’t the only mystery that Jupiter has presented, however. Talking about the early results is Juno’s principal investigator Scott Bolton, who said:
We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves. But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders. There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.
Using the spacecraft’s Microwave Radiometer tool has revealed information about Jupiter’s radiation levels, with NASA saying the planet’s various ammonia zones and belts are mysteries; the tool indicates the ammonia penetrates quite a distance down the atmosphere, including the few hundred miles the tool is able to detect. As well, Jupiter’s magnetic field is said to be approximately 10 times the strength of the strongest found on Earth, exceeding previous research models.
Juno’s early observations also indicate that Jupiter’s southern and northern auroras function differently than the auroras on Earth, though further details on that aren’t available at this time. More will be known after Juno sends back its next batch of data.