NASA’s Juno spacecraft has discovered giant cyclones on Jupiter’s southern pole. Juno was launched in 2011 with the ambitious aim of observing bizarre geometric storms beneath the dense clouds covering Jupiter. It reached Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. Researchers of NASA have now observed giant cyclones around the Jovian poles. Out of these cyclones, six is in the south and nine in the north. With each passing day, Juno’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper instrument captured several data. These data indicate the presence of five windstorms swirling in a pentagonal pattern surrounding a central storm having a hexagonal arrangement. Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator, said none of these storms has signs of yielding to allow other cyclones to join in.
This new storm is smaller when compared to six more established cyclone brothers. It is about the size of Texas, said Mura. The new data shows that the average wind speed of the cyclone is 362 kmph or 225 mph. This is in comparison to the velocity of six more powerful polar colleagues. The JunoCam captured visible-light imagery of the newfound cyclone. Juno craft pulled off a risky maneuver to collect this data in October. While performing the maneuver, it had to outrace the shadow of the sun to maintain its solar power. According to Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, the combination of analytical thinking and creativity has once again paid off the US space agency.
Bolton said that we were aware of the fact that Juno will have to pass through Jupiter’s shadow. “Because Juno was solar-powered, the shadow could have grave consequences. There was a risk that Juno might get freeze to death. The entire team was focusing on keeping the core heated while conserving energy. But our engineers came up with a completely new idea – jump Jupiter’s shadow,” Bolton said. Juno is helping scientists to observe the atmosphere which in turn is helping them to learn more about the planet. It will also help understand other planetary weather systems on gas giants like Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune.