December 17, 2019 •Evelyn J. Arevalo
NASA's Juno spacecraft was launched to space in 2011 and has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016. It's main mission is to understand how the planet Jupiter developed and changed over time.
The Juno spacecraft is orbiting 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the gas giant's clouds and is equipped with a camera that enables scientists to track the motions of gases below Jupiter's atmosphere. The camera is capable of seeing spectrums of infrared light the planet is emitting.
Planetary scientist's announced a new discovery Thursday, December 12. said Juno's camera revealed new kinds of movements in Jupiter’s clouds that had not been discovered before. Back in 2016, Juno unveiled a series of enormous storms arranged in a pentagon around Jupiter’s south pole. Now, Juno just discovered a huge new cyclone located in the gas giant's south pole.
Jupiter's south pole has a new cyclone. 🌪️ The discovery of the massive tempest occurred during the most recent data-gathering flyby of Jupiter by our @NASAJuno spacecraft, soaring only 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) above its cloud tops. https://t.co/d9OPLdZoRN pic.twitter.com/6YiqjcTlAY— NASA (@NASA) December 12, 2019
Juno spotted this new storm near the six others, around Jupiter's south pole, forming a hexagonal group of storms composed of six cyclones surrounding a central one. The newest storm is about the size of the state of Texas. 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."
NASA stated this new finding occurred on Nov. 3, 2019, when the solar-powered spacecraft collected data on its 22nd fly by.
Scientist's do not understand yet what caused the strange arrangement of storms on Jupiter. They are currently running simulations to try to reveal more information about the planet's polar storms.