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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Discovers Earth-Sized Storms on Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has discovered Earth-sized cyclones at the poles of the Jupiter. It has also unveiled the presence of the storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the planet. Both the poles of the Jupiter were found to be covered with Earth-sized swirling storms which are densely clustered and rubbing together. The findings were the result of the Juno probe’s first data-collection pass on August last year. The spacecraft flew for about 4,200 kilometres of Jupiter’s swirling cloud top. The findings suggest the presence of ammonia clouds over the planet which are quite variable and continue to increase up to a few hundred miles or kilometres.

Measurements of Jupiter’s magnetosphere indicate that Jupiter has a stronger magnetic field than expected which is more irregular in shape. The magnetic field in the planet is in the order of 7.766 Gauss which is about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field found on Earth.

The next flyby of the Juno Probe has been scheduled for July 11. During the flyby, the spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Juno Spacecraft

Juno was launched in August 2011 to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution. It’s the first solar powered spacecraft to orbit Jupiter. It is second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after Galileo probe which had orbited the planet from 1995–2003. The unmanned spacecraft had successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016 after a five year journey and traversing distance of nearly 2 billion miles. The primary goals behind the launch of Juno is to find out whether Jupiter has a solid core, study of the formation of its atmosphere and magnetosphere, and to ascertain whether or not water is present in the gas cloud shrouding the planet. Juno has nine instruments on board to study atmosphere, gravity, magnetic field and possible existence of solid core in Jupiter. The information gathered from it will provide vital clues to how the planet has formed and evolved. The spacecraft has been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the wife of Jupiter who is considered as the god of the sky in ancient Greco-Roman mythology.


Saturn’s moon Enceladus may be habitable: NASA

NASA has announced that Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon Europa may be habitable as they have the necessary ingredients required to sustain life. The key ingredients of life are liquid water, a source of energy for metabolism, and chemicals such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur. Findings were made by NASA with the help of Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft and the Hubble Telescope. Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft was sent in 1997 to study Saturn, its rings, and its moon.

Salient findings

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a higher possibility of hosting life than Jupiter’s Europa as it has a form of chemical energy on which life forms can feed. Enceladus is a small, icy moon which has an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumes. 98% of the gas in the plumes was found to be water and 1% is hydrogen and the remaining is a mixture of molecules of carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia.

Underwater vents present on Enceladus resemble the vents present on Earth’s ocean floors, where microbes and other sea life congregate. Scientists expect to find the potential for life in those vents as microbes flourish on Earth in hot cracks on the ocean floors, where sunlight cannot penetrate. Microbes are capable of using the process of methanogenesis, in which hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, to obtain energy. This process creates methane as a byproduct, which is a critical ingredient for life


Scientists find second Great Spot on Jupiter

Scientists have found second Great Spot in Jupiter which is cold and high up. The Great Spot was found to be 24,000 km across and 12,000 km wide. It is found to be in the upper atmosphere and is much cooler than the hot surroundings. Unlike the Great Red Spot which was identified in 1830, this newly discovered Great Spot is continuously changing its shape and size.

The Great Cold Spot is believed to be caused by magnetic forces responsible for Jupiter’s polar auroras. This phenomenon drives energy into the atmosphere and creates a region of cooling in the boundary layer between the underlying atmosphere and the vacuum of space.

The Great Spot was discovered by a British-led team using a telescope in the Southern Observatory in northern Chile. It was found to be much more volatile than the slowly changing Great Red Spot and found to be thousands of years old. Scientists have planned to study the Great Cold Spot using ground telescopes and NASA’s Juno spacecraft that is orbiting around Jupiter. The study has been published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.