Earlier this week, NASA revealed a new three-dimensional video shot by the agency’s Juno spacecraft, documenting the intense storms that take place near Jupiter’s north pole.
According to a news release from NASA, the 80-second video included infrared imagery taken by Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), an instrument described as being able to accurately capture light from the inner part of Jupiter regardless of the time of day. Space.com added that the video was taken early last year, just as Juno was making one of its close encounters with the planet’s north pole, which take place in 53.5-day intervals.
As seen in the video, a central cyclone was spotted in Jupiter’s north pole, with eight circumpolar cyclones surrounding the polar vortex. Based on the data gathered by the JIRAM instrument, which monitors the planet’s weather about 30 to 45 miles below its cloud tops, the eight surrounding cyclones have diameters measuring between 2,500 and 2,900 miles. While the storms look very similar to lava due to their intense red color in the video, Space.com noted that viewers are actually seeing powerful, extremely cold swirls of air, with the warmest parts estimated to be about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 degrees Celsius), and the coldest parts being approximately -117 degrees Fahrenheit (-83 degrees Celsius).
“Before Juno, we could only guess what Jupiter’s poles would look like,” read a statement from Juno co-investigator Alberto Adriani, from the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Planetology in Rome.
“Now, with Juno flying over the poles at a close distance it permits the collection of infrared imagery on Jupiter’s polar weather patterns and its massive cyclones in unprecedented spatial resolution.”
The video was showcased on Wednesday, April 11, at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, but it wasn’t just the storms on Jupiter’s north pole that were previewed by Juno researchers at the event. According to NASA’s news release, scientists also presented an animated video describing the mechanisms behind the “dynamo,” or engine, responsible for Jupiter’s magnetic field. This clip was described by Juno deputy principal investigator Jack Connerney as “the beginning of a new era,” as scientists learn more about the inner workings of these dynamos.
Meanwhile, Juno is expected to make its 12th flyby of Jupiter’s north and south poles on May 24, as team members continue making science observations and uncovering more of the secrets hidden by our solar system’s largest planet. So far, the spacecraft has logged almost 122 million miles during the 11 previous science passes since it first entered Jupiter’s orbit close to two years ago.