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At Jupiter’s poles, massive tornadoes rotate in elegant geometric patterns that remain stable for years at a time, a phenomenon that remains unexplained and scientists said hints at the need for new physics.
Hurricane-force storms were first detected by NASA’s Juno mission, which has taken unprecedented observations of Jupiter since it reached orbit around the planet in 2016. In the northern region of the planet, there is a central cyclone near the pole, while eight others dance around it at The lower polar latitudes are in an octagonal pattern. In the south, a similar group of five tornadoes forms a pentagonal shape.
Now, scientists led by Andrew Ingersoll, who is the Earl C. Anthony Professor of Planetary Science at the California Institute of Technology, have shed light on the strange storms surrounding Jupiter’s north pole, each roughly the size of the continental pole. United State.
Their results suggest that an “antiplomatic ring” of winds blowing in the opposite direction of a hurricane is “necessary for the stability of the polygonal pattern,” although the team notes that other questions about storms remain, according to the A study published on Thursday in natural astronomy.
“Since 2017, the Juno spacecraft has observed a cyclone at Jupiter’s north pole surrounded by eight smaller cyclones arranged in a polygonal pattern,” the study researchers said. “It is not clear why this formation is stable or how to maintain it.”
“The individual polygons and vortices that compose them have been stable over the four years since Juno discovered them,” the team added. “Polygonal patterns rotate slowly, or not at all… In contrast, Saturn has one vortex, a cyclone, at each pole.”
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To get a more consistent reading of how the polygons form and then remain very stable, Ingersoll and colleagues measured extraterrestrial winds and dynamics with the Juno Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). JIRAM can detail the poles down to scales of up to 180 kilometers (110 miles), a resolution that reveals a torrent of winds that acts as a kind of support for hurricanes, and is key to their stability.
However, what the team couldn’t see in the notes was a follow-up to what they discovered. The researchers noted that they did not find the “expected signature of convection,” the process by which heat is transmitted through churning fluids, unlike previous research, according to the study.
Ingersoll and colleagues said that future work is required to reconcile these conflicting data sets, noting in their new work that “a parallel study of Jupiter’s south polar vortices, with a focus on vortex and stability, represents a step in the right direction.”
These beautiful engineering storms are just one of many mysterious processes on Jupiter that scientists hope to explore with missions like Juno, or the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope. As the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter is not only lacking in strange and unique phenomena, but can also serve as a model for understanding similar observations on other planets, including Earth.
“These tornadoes are new climate phenomena that we have not seen or expected before,” said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and co-author of the new study. In a NASA statement for 2019 About the previous search.
He said, “Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how the giant planet’s atmospheres work. We are beginning to understand it through observations and computer simulations. Future Juno flybys will help us improve our understanding by revealing how hurricanes develop over time.”