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NASA's Juno probe reveals secrets of Jupiter's atmosphere in 3D – Space.com

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A NASA spacecraft is giving the best-ever 3D model of the largest planet of our solar system.

The Juno mission is using its second extended phase to peer far into the clouds of Jupiter, using a polar-orbiting view that no previous spacecraft was able to access.

The results in the early phase of the extension — which started this year and will go to 2025, if the spacecraft outlasts the intense radiation — have been rich so far, investigators said in a news conference Thursday (Oct. 28). 

In photos: NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter

This composite image shows views of Jupiter in infrared (left) and visible light (right) taken by the Gemini North telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, respectively. (Image credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley) et al.)

So far the spacecraft revealed new information on how water behaves far down in the clouds, and why the cyclones at the poles appear so stable. “This is going to tell us a lot about how giant planets are throughout the galaxy,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton told reporters at the news conference.

The dominating result was learning that the Great Red Spot is far deeper than investigators thought, with the famous storm going as deep as 310 miles (500 kilometers) beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops. But the new insight on deep atmospheric processes at Jupiter goes far beyond this single hurricane.

Juno’s approach used gravity techniques to uncover the extent of the atmospheric belts and zones at the giant planet, which are detectable thousands of miles or kilometers below the cloud tops, Bolton said. “Gravity represents one of the main techniques that we [use to] open up the planet and look inside.”

Measuring the magnetic field has also been useful, because partway down the huge planet’s gas envelope, hydrogen starts to behave like a fluid rather than as a gas, which influences the behavior of the greater atmosphere. 

And a microwave instrument, “invented literally for this mission”, is showing a weird inversion deep in at least one huge storm at Jupiter, where the temperature suddenly flips from warm to cold, Bolton said.

“It flips somewhere near about 50 miles [80 km] down,” Bolton added, noting that is not too far below where water clouds are predicted to form in the atmosphere. 

“What we’re seeing is that this storm’s roots go down past the water clouds, past where sunlight penetrates,” Bolton said, which is far different than at Earth where our atmosphere is affected by water, condensation and sunlight. “It also is indication that the ammonia and water are being moved up and down,” he added.

This illustration combines an image of Jupiter from JunoCam with a composite image of Earth to depict the size and depth of Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

This illustration combines an image of Jupiter from JunoCam with a composite image of Earth to depict the size and depth of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

This transition zone has been dubbed the “Jovicline”, partially after a term first invented by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. He discussed this boundary in a 1971 short story, “A Meeting With Medusa,” which described the voyage of a balloon moving towards this zone. 

But there’s also an Earthly analogy that Clarke was borrowing from, which is the “thermocline” — a spot where seawater suddenly transitions from warm to cold. The results from Juno, which Bolton said were unexpected, imply a process moving the ammonia around on Jupiter. It might be large circulation cells, or it might be some other “meteorological phenomenon.”

The circulation cells are also newly investigated and came from scientists tracing the path of ammonia in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Ammonia is only available in relatively small amounts, but it pointed the way to circulation cells in the north and south hemispheres that appear to behave similarly to “Ferrel cells” on Earth that dominate our own planet’s circulation.

“The Jovian cells begin at the cloud levels and extend to at least 200 miles [322 km], and probably much deeper than that. This means that the cells on Jupiter are at least 30 times deeper than the equivalent cells on Earth,” said Keren Duer, a graduate student from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, at the news conference. Duer is lead author of a Geophysical Research Letters paper published this week, describing the phenomenon.

More insight also came concerning persistent cyclones observed at the poles of Jupiter, using infrared or heat-seeking wavelengths. “In the infrared, just like in the spy movies, you can see your enemies in the dark,” joked Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, at the event.

Mura pointed to previously known Texas-sized storms at the north and south poles, with eight in an octagonal pattern in the north and five in a pentagonal pattern in the south. The symmetry was not an accident, scientists suspected, as they embarked on a deeper study of the storms. 

“Anytime you see something symmetrical, you think that it should be something hidden below … it is some kind of force, or hidden mechanism or law, which you want to discover,” Mura said.

In this case, a team led by Mura found that the cyclones have oscillations that affect each other and that allow what would be an otherwise unstable storm to stay in place for longer than expected. Moreover, this stability indicates deep roots in the atmosphere, even beyond what Juno can see. The peer-reviewed results were published in July in Geophysical Research Letters.

The symmetry only briefly broke in 2019, when the southern pentagon briefly was joined by a sixth storm. The “intruder” only lasted two months and disappeared without merging with the other five storms, Mura said. Why is poorly understood, but the team plans more observations to learn more.

“The five cycles are probably in a configuration where they leave some kind of free space for an intruder to get in,” Mura added, but said that the persistence of an “intruder” may depend on the size of the storms. “Maybe you need a very big cyclone to get to the sixth place” permanently in the configuration around the pole, he said. 

Bolton said the extended investigation will continue the probe of Jupiter’s deep atmosphere, with questions such as how far down the roots are to these various storms, particularly in the north pole as the spacecraft’s path takes it closer to this region. The spacecraft will also zoom by Europa in the coming year, allowing scientists an unprecedented close-up view of the moon’s north pole ahead of other missions that will visit the world in the 2030s.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Scientists observe total solar eclipse in Antarctica – Global Times

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Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 
Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

Scientists from the Chilean Union Glacier Station observe a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, Dec. 4, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

 

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken from Chilean Union Glacier Station in Antarctica on Dec. 4, 2021 shows a total solar eclipse.Photo:Xinhua

 

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Dinosaur Tail Found In Chile Could Point To Discovery Of New Species – NDTV

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Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton.

Santiago:

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers.

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail.

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms — structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the southern hemisphere but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored dinosaurs there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Chinese Rover Exploring What Appears to Be Cube-Shaped Object on Moon – Futurism

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There’s a Moon cube now! At least, it looks that way based on some intriguing photos from the Chinese lunar rover Yutu-2, released by the country’s space agency this week.

The photos show a distant object that looks like a perfect cube, and China say the rover is headed to check it out.

It’s worth worth noting a few caveats about the photo, spotted yesterday by space journalist Andrew Jones, who described the formation as a “cubic shape.” For one thing, the object is just a few pixels in the photo, meaning it could easily be some sort of optical illusion that’ll be a disappointment up close.

And China has struggled with lunar science communication in the past. In 2019, Yutu-2 “discovered” a “gel-like substance” on the lunar surface, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be, well, rocks. It also trumpeted the discover of a “shard” on the Moon earlier this year, but that turned out to just be another interesting rock. Did we mention that there’s not a lot other than rocks on the Moon?

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Jones, for his part, is managing expectations.

“So yeah, it’s not an obelisk or aliens, but certainly something to check out,” Jones tweeted in followup.

The idea of alien artifacts on the Moon runs deep in popular culture — remember that one scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey”? — but, needless to say, none have been found in reality.

The apparent cube sits in the Von Kármán crater, and China’s space program has been dubbed it, evocatively, the “mystery house.”

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Yutu-2 will spend two or three lunar days traveling to investigate the cube; lunar days are about 50 minutes longer than solar days on Earth.

Jones speculated that the object could be a boulder carved out by an asteroid impact, and posted a photo of a similarly sharply defined boulder found previously on the Moon’s surface.

CNET’s coverage of the most recent discovery agrees with Jones’ analysis, saying the most likely explanation is that the Moon cube is a boulder.

That’s not to say Yutu-2 hasn’t ever found anything cool. In 2019, CNET reported the rover discovered that the Moon’s surface was made of different materials than we previously thought, a discovery that could better predict how Earth’s internal layers might change over time.

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We’re not saying there isn’t weird stuff on the Moon. After all, we just recently found enough buried oxygen under its surface to sustain billions of people. But suffice it to say we aren’t holding our breath over Moon cube, and if it turns out to be anything other than a rock we’ll be really impressed.

More on space: Scientists Discover Enormous Black Hole Right Near Our Galaxy

Care about supporting clean energy adoption? Find out how much money (and planet!) you could save by switching to solar power at UnderstandSolar.com. By signing up through this link, Futurism.com may receive a small commission.

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