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article imageAtmosphere of Jupiter surprisingly 'exotic'

By Tim Sandle     May 28, 2017 in Science
Houston - NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter has delivered first science results and the findings suggest the biggest planet in our solar system is more complex than previously thought.
Juno is a NASA space probe currently orbiting the planet Jupiter, passing within 3,000 miles of the equatorial cloudtops. The probe was developed by the corporation Lockheed Martin, with operations handled by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011 and the craft entered a polar orbit of Jupiter on July 5, 2016. The first results of the probe's analysis have recently been reported the journal Science.
Commenting on the significance of the findings, lead researcher Dr. Scott Bolton enthuses: ""What we've learned so far is earth-shattering. Or should I say, Jupiter-shattering. Discoveries about its core, composition, magnetosphere, and poles are as stunning as the photographs the mission is generating."
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. Jupiter has unique cloud features. The upper atmosphere of Jupiter is divided into cloud belts and zones. They are made primarily of ammonia crystals, sulfur, and mixtures of the two compounds, and it is these cloud formations that have recently sparked interest following Juno's analysis. Juno, which is solar-powered, has eight scientific instruments designed to study Jupiter's interior structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.
Discoveries of interest from Juno include:
Jupiter produces great clouds of ionized gas called plasmas within its upper atmosphere. These energetic particles, which appear as Jovian auroras are far more powerful than the intense auroral emissions see on Earth.
Jupiter's signature bands, produced from swirling storms, disappear near the planet's poles.
The planet's gravity field measurements differ majorly from what scientists expected. The patterns now infer the presence of heavy elements in the interior, including the existence and mass of Jupiter's core.
Juno will continue to collect information. After completing its mission, Juno will be intentionally deorbited into Jupiter's atmosphere.
The new research paper is titled "Juno sees the gas giant from new angles."
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