Juno Reveals Breathtaking New Views Of Jupiter's North Pole And Its Mysterious Dynamo

Cyclones and anticyclones dance about each other in Jupiter's northern polar region. NASA via YouTube

Robin Andrews 12 Apr 2018, 16:59

NASA’s Juno mission is the gift that keeps on giving. From peering into Jupiter’s atmosphere to probing its gravitational well, it’s lifting the lid on longstanding mysteries that scientists have struggled to answer. To wit, a pair of beautiful videos showcasing Juno’s research on these exact phenomena have just made their debut.

The first is a 3D flyover of Jupiter’s northern polar region, as viewed through an infrared filter. The images were taken by the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument, whose ability to spot meteorological marvels through tens of kilometers of hazy clouds has highlighted a number of curious features.

By far the most stunning is a strange form of synchronized dancing taking place up there: one massive cyclone is surrounded by eight other circumpolar cyclones. Individual diameters vary, but at least one is 4,600 kilometers (2,900 miles) across – roughly the same distance you’d take traveling from New York to San Francisco.

These images, taken during the spacecraft’s fourth pass, also reveal that the temperatures of the cyclones are far chillier than our terrestrial equivalents. The maximum temperature of those featured in the video appears to be around -13°C (8.6°F), with the coolest points higher up in the atmosphere and along the “limbs” of the cyclones registering as low as -83°C (-117°F).


The second newly unleashed video, however, is arguably the more fascinating. Using eight orbits of Jupiter, researchers have managed to produce a model of how Jupiter’s internal dynamo works, and thus gain an insight into how its magnetic field works.

Earth’s magnetic field, although still fairly mysterious in some respects, is far better understood. Earth has a liquid, iron-rich outer core; as it cools, its contents move around in convection currents and, thanks to a quirk of physics known as the dynamo theory, this generates a life-protecting, aurora-influencing magnetic field.

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