We Finally Know What The Interior Of Jupiter Looks Like

New research gives us our best look yet inside the gas giant. Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

In the final paper, Alberto Adriani from the Institute for Astrophysics and Space Planetology in Rome, Italy, and his colleagues observed the structure of Jupiter’s poles in infrared in detail for the first time.

They found that cyclones at the poles created persistent polygonal patterns, with eight cyclones raging around a single central cyclone at the north pole. At the south pole, there were five cyclones doing the same thing.

The cyclones of Jupiter's south pole seen in infrared. NASA/SWRI/JPL/ASI/INAF/IAPS

“Juno is the first mission designed to give the instruments an outstanding view of the poles,” Adriani told IFLScience. “The cyclonic structures we observed there, over the poles, do not exist in other planets of our solar system."

There’s plenty of other exciting science to come in the future. For example, Juno is going to measure the tides raised by the moon Io as it exerts its gravitational pull on the planet. The depth and structure of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is also going to be measured, while we might even work out the mass of its central core.

Perhaps one of the neatest things coming up, though, will actually be from a different mission. The Cassini spacecraft, in its final months before it was purposefully destroyed in September 2017, was placed in a Juno-like close orbit around Saturn. Data from these final orbits, which may be released in the next six months, could tell us how Saturn’s interior compares to Jupiter.

Our knowledge of gas giants is shaping up to be greatly increased in 2018. And that’s important for a whole number of reasons, not least because many of the planets we’re finding outside our Solar System are gas giants. If we can understand our own, we’ll be able to understand a lot more about planets elsewhere.

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