NASA’s Juno probe narrowly avoided certain doom a few weeks back and has recently spotted a massive storm rampaging across Jupiter’s atmosphere. Who ever said that space exploration was boring?
Juno Narrowly Avoids Destruction
The Juno Probe mission was nearly ended prematurely when the team realized it was about to spend 12 hours in Jupiter’s shadow while it made a very close pass near the gas giant. Since the $1.1 billion probe is solar-powered, spending that long out of the sun’s rays would likely have meant it would go dark.
“We would’ve gotten cold. Really, really cold,” said Steve Levin, a Juno project scientist. Thankfully, some very smart people are working on the Juno project, and they were able to use a recalculation of the probe’s orbit to push it out of the planet’s shadow in advance of its close pass.
“Without that maneuver, without the creative genius of the folks at JPL on the navigation team, we wouldn’t have the beautiful data that we have to show you today,” said Levin.
What, exactly, was the team able to show us?
The Close Pass Reveals Stunning Jupiter Storms
A storm bigger than the state of Texas is roiling through the atmosphere of Jupiter, according to new snapshots from Juno. This storm is one of seven that are currently raging in the Southern Polar region of Jupiter, each of which were captured by the Juno probe. Meanwhile, nine similar cyclones are spinning across the atmosphere in the planet’s Northern Polar Region.
Interestingly, the southern storms are arrayed in a strikingly regular arrangement. Rather than appearing random or chaotic, the storms are spread out in a roughly hexagonal manner. This was surprising to the researchers, who aren’t sure why the storms are behaving this way.
Gas Giant Weather Patterns
“These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before,” said Juno scientist Cheng Li. “Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work.”
“We are beginning to grasp it through observations and computer simulations. Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time,” Cheng Li continued.
Hopefully, projects like Juno help us to have an even clearer view of the cosmos!