NASA probe spots massive storm the size of Texas swirling near Jupiter’s south pole that joins a family of six other cyclones in the region

  • NASA’s Juno capture the image of a new storm raging in Jupiter’s south pole on the craft’s 22nd flyby 
  • The cyclone joins six other storms in the region, which scientists say are a new weather phenomena
  • Data sent back to NASA revealed the new cyclone had average wind speeds of 225 miles per hour 

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured a storm the size of Texas swirling near Jupiter’s south pole.

The newfound ‘maelstrom’ joins a family of six other raging cyclones that ‘are a new weather phenomena’.

The craft spotted the storm during its 22nd flyby of the planet while soaring only 2,175 miles above thick layer of clouds.

Juno made the discovered on November 3, which also ‘marked a victory for the mission.’

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With each flyby, the data reinforced the idea that five windstorms were swirling in a pentagonal pattern around a central storm at the south pole and that the system seemed stable. None of the six storms showed signs of yielding to allow other cyclones to join in. Then on the next flyby, a new storm had joined the gang

Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said: ‘The combination of creativity and analytical thinking has once again paid off big time for NASA.’

‘We realized that the orbit was going to carry Juno into Jupiter’s shadow, which could have grave consequences because we’re solar powered.’

‘No sunlight means no power, so there was real risk we might freeze to death.’

‘While the team was trying to figure out how to conserve energy and keep our core heated, the engineers came up with a completely new way out of the problem: Jump Jupiter’s shadow. It was nothing less than a navigation stroke of genius.’

‘Lo and behold, first thing out of the gate on the other side, we make another fundamental discovery.’

NASA ‘s Juno spacecraft captured a storm the size of Texas swirling near Jupiter’s south pole. The newfound ‘maelstrom’ joins a family of six other raging cyclones that ‘are a new weather phenomena’. The craft spotted the storm during its 22nd flyby of the planet while soaring only 2,175 miles above thick layer of clouds

With each flyby, the data reinforced the idea that five windstorms were swirling in a pentagonal pattern around a central storm at the south pole and that the system seemed stable.

None of the six storms showed signs of yielding to allow other cyclones to join in.

Then on the next flyby, a new storm had joined the gang.

‘It almost appeared like the polar cyclones were part of a private club that seemed to resist new members,’ said Bolton.

Juno infiltrated the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles below Jupiter’s cloud tops and captured infrared light emerging from deep inside the planet.

Juno infiltrated the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles below Jupiter’s cloud tops (pictured) and captured infrared light emerging from deep inside the planet

Data sent back to NASA revealed the new cyclone had average wind speeds of 225 miles per hour.

The spacecraft’s JunoCam also obtained visible-light imagery of the new cyclone.

The two datasets shed light on atmospheric processes of not just Jupiter but also fellow gas giants Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as well as those of giant exoplanets now being discovered.

Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley, said: ‘These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before.’

‘Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work.’

‘We are beginning to grasp it through observations and computer simulations.’

‘Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time.’

WHAT IS JUPITER’S GREAT RED SPOT?

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-coloured clouds in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval’s perimeter.

The biggest storm in the solar system, it appears as a deep red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white.

Trapped between two jet streams, the Great Red Spot is an anticyclone swirling around a centre of high atmospheric pressure that makes it rotate in the opposite direction to hurricanes on Earth.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-coloured clouds in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval’s perimeter

Winds inside the storm have been measured at several hundreds of miles per hour, with wind storms greater than any storm on Earth, Nasa astronomers have said. 

In the late 1800s it was estimated to be about 35,000 miles (about 56,000 km) in diameter – wide enough for four Earths to fit side by side.  

Measuring 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) wide as of April 3, 2017, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth and is gradually shrinking over time.

 

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