NASA’s Juno navigators enable Jupiter cyclone discovery

Posted: December 13, 2019 by oldbrew in atmosphere, exploration, News, solar system dynamics, wind

Six cyclones form a hexagonal pattern around a central cyclone at Jupiter’s south pole. Generated image – credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

Suddenly Saturn’s hexagon isn’t unique in the solar system any more.

Jupiter’s south pole has a new cyclone, reports

The discovery of the massive Jovian tempest occurred on Nov. 3, 2019, during the most recent data-gathering flyby of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

It was the 22nd flyby during which the solar-powered spacecraft collected science data on the gas giant, soaring only 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) above its cloud tops.

The flyby also marked a victory for the mission team, whose innovative measures kept the solar-powered spacecraft clear of what could have been a mission-ending eclipse.

“The combination of creativity and analytical thinking has once again paid off big time for NASA,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

“We realized that the orbit was going to carry Juno into Jupiter’s shadow, which could have grave consequences because we’re solar powered. No sunlight means no power, so there was real risk we might freeze to death. While the team was trying to figure out how to conserve energy and keep our core heated, the engineers came up with a completely new way out of the problem: Jump Jupiter’s shadow. It was nothing less than a navigation stroke of genius. Lo and behold, first thing out of the gate on the other side, we make another fundamental discovery.”

When Juno first arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, its infrared and visible-light cameras discovered giant cyclones encircling the planet’s poles—nine in the north and six in the south.

Were they, like their Earthly siblings, a transient phenomenon, taking only weeks to develop and then ebb? Or could these cyclones, each nearly as wide as the continental U.S., be more permanent fixtures?

With each flyby, the data reinforced the idea that five windstorms were swirling in a pentagonal pattern around a central storm at the south pole and that the system seemed stable. None of the six storms showed signs of yielding to allow other cyclones to join in.

“It almost appeared like the polar cyclones were part of a private club that seemed to resist new members,” said Bolton.

Then, during Juno’s 22nd science pass, a new, smaller cyclone churned to life and joined the fray.

The Life of a Young Cyclone

“Data from Juno’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper [JIRAM] instrument indicates we went from a pentagon of cyclones surrounding one at the center to a hexagonal arrangement,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome.

“This new addition is smaller in stature than its six more established cyclonic brothers: It’s about the size of Texas. Maybe JIRAM data from future flybys will show the cyclone growing to the same size as its neighbors.”

Probing the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below Jupiter’s cloud tops, JIRAM captures infrared light emerging from deep inside Jupiter.

Its data indicate wind speeds of the new cyclone average 225 mph (362 kph) – comparable to the velocity found in its six more established polar colleagues.

Continued here.

  1. JB says:

    Some day it will be “discovered” at the poles on earth, and what the pattern is on the sun.

    Birkeland currents

  2. Paul Vaughan says:

    “the problem for each dimension can be expressed in the existential theory of the reals”

  3. Paul Vaughan says:

    “Because the golden ratio does exist, this is a true sentence, and belongs to the existential theory of the reals.”

  4. oldmanK says:

    The hexagonal structure is reminiscent of the honeycomb structure. However one particular aspect of the polygonal arrangement appears to be evident in tectonic rotations. Stress relief planes seem to follow a polygonal route. This was a subject that was being followed/investigated by a net contact.
    Very new ideas, but also based on evidence; yet seemingly resisted.

  5. oldmanK says:

    See also oldbrew says: December 14, 2019 at 9:47 am

    “They discovered two different mechanisms for forming five-fold twinned nanostructures, both of which are shaped by the accumulation and elimination of strain toward an ideal shape that eliminates all strain.”

  6. oldmanK says:

    The above is from ‘suggestion 40’

  7. Paul Vaughan says:

    “The envelope of Soddy’s hexlets is a Dupin cyclide, an inversion of the torus.”

    “Multiple rings of Steiner chains are another generalization. An ordinary Steiner chain is obtained by inverting an annular chain of tangent circles bounded by two concentric circles. This may be generalized to inverting three or more concentric circles that sandwich annular chains of tangent circles.”

  8. oldbrew says:

    The hexagon was a pentagon not long ago.

    Instead, they found an octagon-shaped grouping over the north pole, with eight cyclones surrounding one in the middle, and a pentagon-shaped batch over the south pole. Each cyclone measures several thousand miles (kilometers) across.

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