(ORDO NEWS) — Ever since the Juno space probe provided us with our first incredible views of Jupiter’s poles, these regions have fascinated and mesmerized us.
In one of the latest images of the north pole sent by Juno, you can see why: a mixture of storm whirlwinds, connected and interconnected, seemingly serene from a distance, but raging with an intensity we can only imagine here on Earth.
The image was taken during the 43rd close flyby of Juno. giant planet in our solar system on July 5, when the spacecraft passed at a relatively close distance of 25,100 kilometers (15,600 miles) over the tops of the polar clouds.
Because of its axial orientation, Jupiter’s poles are invisible to us most of the time, which is why planetary scientists rely on Juno’s data to study atmospheric dynamics in these mysterious and turbulent regions.
the image above looks relatively serene; however, get close to Jupiter’s cloud tops and you begin to get a glimpse of the staggering extent and brutality of the planet’s weather, as seen in this previous image, edited by NASA engineer Kevin Gill, embedded below.
“These powerful storms can reach over 30 miles (50 kilometers) in height and hundreds of miles across,” according to JPL NASA. a spokesperson wrote on the JPL website.
“Understanding how they form is key to understanding Jupiter’s atmosphere, as well as the hydrodynamics and chemistry of the clouds that create the planet’s other atmospheric features. Scientists are especially interested in eddies of various shapes, sizes and colors.”
Each of Jupiter’s poles has its own idiosyncratic arrangement of storms. At the south pole there are—or rather there were—six cyclones, each comparable in size to the continental United States, one in the center, and five storms around it in an almost perfect pentagon, all rotating clockwise.
Between the flybys of Juno, scientists could observe the appearance of the seventh storm, so the pentagon turned into a hexagon. (This is different from Saturn’s north polar hexagon, which is a single hexagonal storm.)
The North Pole is even weirder: there, scientists have identified nine storms, eight of which are lined up around one in the center, all spinning counterclockwise. And at high latitudes, other eddies rage around both central polar clusters of storms.
Using data from Juno, scientists have determined the mechanism by which these storms remain separate rather than coalescing into one megastorm. as we see at the poles of Saturn. Tracking changes between Juno flybys is one of planetary scientists’ most important tools for understanding Jupiter’s wild weather, especially at its poles.
Citizen scientists can join in the fun too. The image above was processed from Juno raw data by a citizen scientist. If you want to try your hand at it, the BBC Sky at Night Magazine has a pretty detailed guide. You can find Juno raw images here.
And citizen scientists can also help identify and classify cyclones on Jupiter with Zooniverse’s Jovian Vortex Hunter. This is a tool that will directly help planetary scientists better understand this wild world.
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