NASA’s Juno mission sent back images of the planet, which gave scientists a better insight into the Red Planet’s atmospheric composition, magnetic fields, and many other relevant data. However, the novelty of the pictures the Juno probe recently captured lies in the fact that it shows the presence of high white clouds in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Scientists posit that these clouds are extremely cold and, therefore, release precipitation in the form of snow or hail instead of rain.
Juno Reveals Crucial Information About Jupiter’s Atmosphere
The images the Juno probe sent back indicate that the white clouds covering tiny portions of the Solar System’s largest planet are at least 50 miles in width and are placed at such an altitude, that they can only cause snowfall or hails.
“It’s probably mostly ammonia ice, but there may be water ice mixed into it, so it’s not exactly like the snow that we have [on Earth],” Juno’s Principal investigator Scott Bolton said during a news conference.
Swirling earth-sized storms were also noticed in the planet’s North and South Poles. This phenomenon is puzzling scientists who are trying to figure out how these huge storm clouds came into existence. Researchers also wonder if these storms will disappear within the next year or whether they form stable configurations.
Juno is also equipped with a Microwave Radiometer or MWR, which lets the probe gather thermal microwave radiation readings that are emitting from Jupiter. Researchers have noticed a strange phenomenon in the MWR readings as well. All the Jovian belts seem to form different structures, but the belt on the equator goes all the way down.
MWR can pick up its readings at ranges of a few 100 miles and yet, scientists found the existence of Ammonia at such deep levels.
The Juno Mission
The $1.1 billion Juno probe was launched in August 2011 and it journeyed for five years to reach Jupiter in July 2016. The main objective of the mission was to gather more information about Jupiter’s geological and atmospheric features, to better understand how the planet evolved to its current state.
The probe passes over Jupiter’s poles every 53.5 Earth days and also conducts most of its analysis at the time. Till date, Juno has accomplished five such examinations since the first one on August 27, 2016. The images NASA released were taken by the probe during its latest Jovian Pole approach on May 19.
“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system — one that every school kid knows — Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” Bolton added.
The first science results of Juno’s analysis of Jupiter’s atmosphere are published in the journal Science.