NASA mission finds swirling storms at poles, weird magnetic fields — Jupiter revealed

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The findings released on Thursday were based on data collected when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 km) around Jupiter's poles on August 27.

A NASA spacecraft has spotted monstrous "Earth-sized" cyclones churning over of the poles of Jupiter.

These ovals, it turns out, are huge swirling storms, some of which measure up to 870 miles (1,400 kilometres) across.

During Juno's next flyby on July 11, the spacecraft will pass directly over the planet's Great Red Spot, a massive storm south of the equator that has existed for centuries.

"'We're puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter's north pole doesn't look like the south pole", Juno's principal investigator Scott Bolton said in a briefing about the new data. "There is so much going on here that we didn't expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter". "And when you look from the pole, it looks totally different ... Or should I say, Jupiter-shattering".

Scientists say there are clusters of cyclones near Jupiter's poles which, combined, are as big as Earth. "Are they going to stay the same way for years and years like the Great Red Spot".

Bolton said the core may be partially dissolved, and is certainly much larger than anybody had anticipated.

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Just as intriguing will be how fast these super cyclones are moving.

The paper outlines findings from Juno's first pole-to-pole orbit on August 27, when the basketball court-sized spacecraft skimmed within almost 2,000 miles of Jupiter's equatorial cloud tops.

Two papers in the journal Science and 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters describe a trove of discoveries made since Juno began orbiting Jupiter past year. Bolton refers to them as Jovian snowfall - or maybe hail.

Juno readings also found that Jupiter's magnetic fields are far stronger than expected, about 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic field on Earth - an indication the fields are generated closer to the surface that previously thought. During the teleconference, he played two minutes of the spacecraft's recording from February, adjusted for the human ear and full of percussion sounds as well as high-pitched beeps and squeals, and even flute-like notes.

Researchers hope to compare Juno's observations with those of NASA's Cassini spacecraft, in its final months orbiting Saturn.

"We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating", said Diane Brown, Juno's program executive at NASA headquarters.

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