Jupiter Throws Another ‘Curve Ball': Swarms of Giant Cyclones Swirling on the Planet's Poles

The massive storms on the giant gas planet don't seem to change position much or merge

Jupiter's poles are blanketed by geometric clusters of cyclones and its atmosphere is deeper than scientists suspected, possibly extending about 1,800 miles deep.

These are just some of the latest findings by four international research teams, based on observations by NASA's Juno spacecraft circling Jupiter.

The scientists reported Wednesday there's a constellation of nine cyclones over Jupiter's north pole and six over the south pole. They're puzzled that the massive storms don't seem to change position much or merge. They also didn't expect the cyclones to be so close together and so symmetrical.

Another study in this week's journal Nature finds that Jupiter's jet streams actually penetrate far beneath the visible cloud tops.

"These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter's curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. "Juno's unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries."

Juno has been orbiting our solar system's biggest planet since 2016. The spacecraft is about one-third of the way through its primary mission. 

The findings are important because they might help scientists better understand what drives strong jet streams, which can significantly affect weather conditions. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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