One of the goals of the mission is to look in detail at the atmosphere of this gas giant. From Earth, we can see the stripes, which are vast wind streams (in opposite directions ?!), and the Great Red Spot, the largest hurricane in the solar system. But what is going on under the cloud tops?
After more than a year of data collection, results are starting to come in. Jonathan Fortney summarizes three new papers appearing this spring in Nature . Fortney points out that Earth bound experiments and theory have not been able to describe the complicated Hydrogen / Helium atmosphere below the surface we can see.
One study investigated the mass distribution of Jupiter by measuring the Doppler effects on the radio signals from the Juno spacecraft as it swooped past . Fortney notes that this was a very finicky process, which had to account for tiny amounts of acceleration including the absorption and re-radiation of sunlight! The researchers conclude that the bands we see extend quite deep into the atmosphere.
A second study extends this work to conclude that the strong winds decay slowly down some 3.000 kilometers . I.e., the bands we see probably extend down some 3,000 kilometers into the atmosphere.
A third study finds that below that depth, the planet rotates as a solid . At that depth, the pressure is such that the hydrogen ionizes and electromagnetic forces bind the material into a liquid. (This core is the source of the strong magnetic field.) Obviously, there must be a very turbulent area at the boundary of these two regions, with huge bands of wind ripping East and West across an inner core.
These studies give a picture of a dense interior, with a deep atmosphere dominated by huge bands of strong winds. An extremely stormy planet!
(Caveat: these studies are based on the theory of gravitational harmonics which I don’t understand at all.)
Fortney suggests that Juno may be able to make further detailed observations of the Red Spot and other storms, which would be interesting details to have. He also notes that data returned by the Cassini probe of Saturn should yield comparative measurements for the its less dense and probably deeper atmosphere.
Stay tuned. There is lots of other science coming.
The current funding ends in July, but the mission could continue for several more years if supported.
- Jonathan Amos, Jupiter’s winds run deep into the planet, in BBC News – Science & Environment. 2018. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43317566
- Jonathan Fortney, A deeper look at Jupiter. Nature, 555:168-169, March 7 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02612-y
- T. Guillot, Y. Miguel, B. Militzer, W. B. Hubbard, Y. Kaspi, E. Galanti, H. Cao, R. Helled, S. M. Wahl, L. Iess, W. M. Folkner, D. J. Stevenson, J. I. Lunine, D. R. Reese, A. Biekman, M. Parisi, D. Durante, J. E. P. Connerney, S. M. Levin, and S. J. Bolton, A suppression of differential rotation in Jupiter’s deep interior. Nature, 555:227, 03/07/online 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature25775
- L. Iess, W. M. Folkner, D. Durante, M. Parisi, Y. Kaspi, E. Galanti, T. Guillot, W. B. Hubbard, D. J. Stevenson, J. D. Anderson, D. R. Buccino, L. Gomez Casajus, A. Milani, R. Park, P. Racioppa, D. Serra, P. Tortora, M. Zannoni, H. Cao, R. Helled, J. I. Lunine, Y. Miguel, B. Militzer, S. Wahl, J. E. P. Connerney, S. M. Levin, and S. J. Bolton, Measurement of Jupiter’s asymmetric gravity field. Nature, 555:220, 03/07/online 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature25776
- Y. Kaspi, E. Galanti, W. B. Hubbard, D. J. Stevenson, S. J. Bolton, L. Iess, T. Guillot, J. Bloxham, J. E. P. Connerney, H. Cao, D. Durante, W. M. Folkner, R. Helled, A. P. Ingersoll, S. M. Levin, J. I. Lunine, Y. Miguel, B. Militzer, M. Parisi, and S. M. Wahl, Jupiter’s atmospheric jet streams extend thousands of kilometres deep. Nature, 555:223, 03/07/online 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature25793