The powerful cyclones on Jupiter are very similar to the eddies of the oceans on Earth. The powerful cyclones that develop in the atmosphere above the poles of the planet Jupiter have much in common with the eddies present in the oceans of the Earth. A discovery that reveals other details of the intricate puzzle that makes up these Jupiter phenomena. The discovery came thanks to the comparison of the images of Jupiter’s polar vortices sent by NASA’s Juno probe with those of the marine circulation in the terrestrial oceans and by applying the principles of geophysical fluid dynamics, the researchers came to the conclusion that cyclones on the largest planet of the solar system are produced and maintained by convection phenomena, thanks to which large masses of hot gas rise upwards and then cool down and descend into the deeper layers of the atmosphere. “When I saw the richness of turbulence around Jupiter cyclones with all the smaller filaments and eddies, it reminded me of the turbulence that can be seen around Earth’s ocean eddies,” said Lia Siegelman, oceanographer at the University of California at San Diego, first author of the study. “These characteristics – he notes – are particularly evident, for example, in the high resolution satellite images of plankton blooms”. Siegelman believes that understanding the functioning of Jupiter’s energy system, on a much larger scale than Earth’s, could also help us improve our knowledge of the physical mechanisms at play on our planet, highlighting some energy transfer processes that could also occur. on earth. Juno is the first spacecraft to capture images of Jupiter’s poles; its predecessors orbited the equatorial region of the planet. Juno is equipped with two camera systems: one for visible light images, JunoCam, and another that captures thermal images, the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (Jiram), the latter led by ASI and scientific responsibility of INAF . The team analyzed a series of infrared images obtained by Jiram of the region around the north pole of Jupiter, and in particular the cluster of polar vortices that are stationed there. From the images, the researchers were able to calculate wind speed and direction by monitoring the movement of the clouds in the sequence of images. Next, the team interpreted the infrared images and provided an estimate of the cloud thickness. In the warmer regions there are thin clouds, where it is possible to see more deeply the atmosphere of Jupiter. Cold regions, on the other hand, show a dense cloud cover that shields Jupiter’s atmosphere. These findings provided the researchers with clues to the energy of the Jovian atmospheric system. Researchers have found that rapidly rising atmospheric gas within clouds is the energy source that triggers and sustains large circumpolar and polar cyclones. Juno arrived around the Jupiter system in 2016, providing scientists for the first time with a comprehensive and detailed view of the large polar cyclones in the planet’s atmosphere. These gigantic structures have a radius of about 2000 kilometers. Eight of these cyclones are present at Jupiter’s north pole and five above its south pole, maintaining a fairly stable configuration since their discovery five years ago. INAF researcher Alessandro Mura, co-author of the study and scientific director of the Jiram instrument, notes that “we are not yet sure how these polar vortices originated or how long they have been circulating, but we now know that the phenomenon of humid convection it is what sustains them “. “The study was based on a series of Jiram images of exceptional quality, in terms of resolution and spatial coverage. This quality was made possible thanks to the careful planning of the observations by the Italian scientific team” underlines Christina Plainaki. Researcher in Solar System Sciences, Asi Project Scientist for the Jiram / Juno experiment. “In this way – continues Plainaki – it was possible not only to determine the typical values of the velocities of the winds within polar vortices but also to study the specific characteristics of the spatial distributions. This has profound implications on the nature of the phenomena that take place there, linked in particular to convection and turbulence. Siegelman’s study, also due to the extensive use of methods typical of terrestrial oceanography, certainly stands out in the science of Jupiter for its originality and interpretative depth “. “This study puts another piece in the intriguing puzzle that lies behind the mysterious polar cyclones of Jupiter” underlines Giuseppe Sindoni, Project Manager Juno-Jiram for Asi. “The data provided by our instrument – he adds – proved once again to be fundamental in the interpretation of the complex phenomenology of the Jovian atmosphere”. The Juno mission will continue to orbit Jupiter until 2025, providing us with new images of the planet and its vast lunar system and helping scientists study it even more accurately. The study was published today on the Nature Physics website in the article Moist convection drives an upscale energy transfer at Jovian high latitudes by Lia Siegelman, Patrice Klein, Andrew P. Ingersoll, Shawn P. Ewald, William R. Young, Annalisa Bracco, Alessandro Mura, Alberto Adriani, Davide Grassi, Christina Plainaki and Giuseppe Sindoni.
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