NASA Probe’s Up Close Pictures of Jupiter

The images are breathtaking. It is as if a painter with tremendous creativity and a sense for wonderous patterns had composed them.

NASA’s Juno craft has recently taken some updated pictures of Jupiter’s interior and the results are extraordinary. They paint the picture of a gaseous planet much more active and interesting than previously thought.

The Guardian writes that the famous striped bands that ring Jupiter’s surface are the result of powerful convectional winds that can extend 1,864 miles below the ‘surface’ of the planet.

It is believed that there does exist some semblance of a solid core on Jupiter, but it is theorized that this core is composed of incredibly dense ionized hydrogen and helium gases.

Juno was launched in 2011 and five years later it arrived on Jupiter’s doorstep after traveling 1.8 billion miles. The NASA craft is nearing the end of its original mission, but scientists are thinking about extending the work of Juno instead of crashing it into Jupiter in July.

Juno’s findings have helped scientists conceptualize what it would be like to travel through Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The Guardian writes:

“On an imagined journey from the outside to the center, one would first encounter a cloud layer of 99% hydrogen and helium, with traces of methane and ammonia. The density at the surface is about 10 times less than that of air, but the gas becomes denser and denser towards the center of the planet.

At about 10% towards the center, the gas becomes so dense that hydrogen becomes ionized, turning into a metallic hydrogen gas approaching the density of water. About 20% towards the center, helium condenses into rain. And in the deep interior, where pressures are about 10 million times higher than at the Earth’s surface, scientists think the gas exists as a dense soup speckled with rocks of heavy metal.”

The atmosphere on Earth is about a millionth of the mass of the whole planet, while Jupiter’s is estimated to be close to 1%.

“The concept that an atmosphere can be so heavy and contain so much of the planet is surprising,” said Yohai Kaspi, a planetary scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Jonathan Fortney, an astronomer at the University of California Santa Cruz who wrote an analysis of the findings, said: “The big deal is that this tells us how the interior of Jupiter works. People have been fighting about this since before I was born.”

“It’s a 50-year-old problem that is basically solved thanks to Juno – that is really something to be proud of,” said Tristan Guillot of Côte d’Azur University in Nice, France.

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