NASA’s Juno probe reached the Jovian system last Summer, getting scientists excited about the notion that we might learn more about Jupiter and its enigmatic qualities.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles
One of the most prominent questions scientists expected to answer is whether the planet’s swirling clouds occur solely at the surface levels of the atmosphere or if they infiltrate deep within the planet's skies. Fortunately, gravitational field data obtained by Juno might shed some light on this longstanding question, in addition to others.
At the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting that took place in Utah last week, Juno researchers presented their findings. In particular, Jupiter’s gravitational field could tell a story about what’s going on just beneath the planet’s secret-concealing clouds.
As it would appear, there’s an incongruity in the way Jupiter’s gravitational field moves; patterns between the North and South hemispheres of the gaseous planet differ significantly, indicating an asymmetric flow of the hydrogen-rich atmosphere.
What’s more is that Jupiter’s chaotic swirling clouds could seep thousands of kilometers below visible parts of the atmosphere, riding along the contours of what scientists believe could be a “poorly-defined core.”
Questions remain, however, such as whether the clouds flow at various rates at different depths. The researchers compare it to the concept behind “Russian Dolls,” in which smaller ones are nested inside larger ones, forming a plethora of layers.
Interested in seeing just how chaotic Jupiter's clouds are? This video should enlighten you:
Jupiter’s unique gravitational field behavior could tell us more about the planet, but because Jupiter is so unusual compared to Earth, researchers are still learning as they go.
Without a doubt, additional research could help scientists solve a bevy of other questions that remain regarding Jupiter. Current analyses are merely scratching the surface of scientific discovery. It should be interesting to see what future observations will bring and what the best minds in planetary research will make of it.