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Latest Jupiter Flyby Shows Surreal Mysteries On Giant Planet

First Posted: Mar 31, 2017 04:38 AM EDT
Scientist Begin Retrieving Data From Galileo After Close Call With Jupiter
This image of a large storm brewing in Jupiter's atmosphere was captured by the Galileo spacecraft during its 17th orbit of Jupiter in February 1998.
(Photo : JPL/NASA/Getty Images)

The Juno Mission successfully completed its latest orbit of Jupiter on March 27, and data is now returned to Earth. At the time of Juno's closest approach to the giant planet, it is only about 2,700 miles above the cloud tops, zipping by at 129,000 miles per hour.

NASA also reported that energetic particles on the planet actually create incandescent auroras that suggest charged material in its current system. Scott Bolton, a principal investigator of Juno, said that every time they get nearer to Juno's cloud tops, they learn more things about the planet that help them understand it better.

The science team is still analyzing data from previous flybys of Jupiter. Among the things they discovered include the planet's magnetic fields, which are more complicated than expected. The belts and zones, for instance, are not limited to the cloud tops, but extend deep into the planet's interiors.

In a report from the National Geographic, Bolton noted that the new images looked "like Van Gogh paintings." He also added that the swirls look a lot like art. The clouds themselves are produced by the complex atmospheric dynamics like wind and turbulence. These are combined with "certain chemistries" that resulted to vibrant colors not present on other planets.

One of the highlights of the latest flyby is seeing the planet's poles for the first time. These regions, as it turned out, are very different from the equatorial part of Jupiter. They boast of blue tinges, numerous cyclones and a glaring lack of cloudy bands present in most parts of the planet. Candy Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute said that the polar perspective of Jupiter has been exciting, filled mostly of filigree and storm structures.

Jupiter remains a mystery to scientists. However, Bolton noted they are making a "map" of the planet to help them explore its physics and how the interior structure is built -- essentially learning how the largest planet in the Solar System formed. More detailed information from the study will be published soon.

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