The atmospheric winds of Jupiter run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth, data collected by NASA's Juno mission to the gas-giant planet shows. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter's interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin, NASA said.
Other Juno science results released on Wednesday include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter's north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system.
"Juno's unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, US. "Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter," Bolton added.
The findings are part of a four-article collection on Juno science results published in the journal Nature. "Following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition," said Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, and lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer.
The result was a surprise for the Juno science team because it indicated that the weather layer of Jupiter was more massive, extending much deeper than previously expected. The Jovian weather layer, from its very top to a depth of 3,000 kilometres, contains about one percent of Jupiter's mass (about three Earth masses). "By contrast, Earth's atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth," said Kaspi.
The scientists believe that the finding is important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving these strong jet streams.