NASA's Juno probe entered orbit around Jupiter a year ago, and has been gathering data ever since. Now the space agency is releasing spectacular images, such as this one showing Juptier's south pole. It is a composite of several images, and shows multiple cyclones up to 600 miles in diameter raging around the pole.
“We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “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.”
Among the findings that challenge assumptions are those provided by Juno’s imager, JunoCam. The images show both of Jupiter's poles are covered in Earth-sized swirling storms that are densely clustered and rubbing together.
“We're puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn't look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We're questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we're going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”
As more of the data is analyzed, we are liable to find out more amazing things about the largest planet in our solar system. Read more about the Juno mission and what it's learning about Jupiter at NASA.
(Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles)