More reports on: Space missions

Nasa's Juno probe finds Jupiter different from expected

26 May 2017

Nasa's Juno mission, which is now exploring Jupiter, is sending back data which is challenging researchers' beliefs about the gas giant.

The results were revealed during a media teleconference yesterday, with Nasa researchers. They were also published in corresponding studies through the journal Science and Geophysical Research Letters.

Juno, launched in August 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, has been orbiting the planet and performing calculated flybys over the clouds. These happened every 53 days as Juno flew by Jupiter, going from the north to south pole in about two hours.

"The general theme of our discoveries is really how different Jupiter looked from how we expected," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "This is a close-up and personal look at Jupiter. We thought it was uniform inside and relatively boring. What we're finding is anything but that. It's very complex. Jupiter from the poles doesn't look anything like it does from our usual view."

Observations and data captured during the flybys have revealed Jupiter's previously unseen poles and the bright ovals at its poles have been shown to be gigantic cyclones spanning 870 miles.

The solar-powered spacecraft, which had been using eight instruments to study the gas giant's composition, interior structure, and gravitational and magnetic fields, will continue to do this work, barring some sort of malfunction, through at least February 2018, the end of Juno's primary mission.

The mission derives its name from Roman goddess Juno, who was able to look through the clouds to see her frequently misbehaving husband Jupiter, the king of the gods, who was hiding within. The Juno probe was likewise peering beneath Jupiter's thick clouds to learn about the planet's formation and evolution - information that could shed light on the history of our solar system as a whole, according to Nasa officials.

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