Jupiter’s south pole


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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The storms at the south pole of Jupiter
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated and reduced to post here, was taken by Juno during its 28th close orbital fly-by of Jupiter, and then processed by citizen scientist Hemant Dara.

While not the first Juno image of the poles of Jupiter, this photo illustrates very well the evolution of the gas giant’s deep atmosphere as you move from the equator to the pole. From the equator to the high mid-latitudes the planet’s rotation, producing a day only 10 hours long, organizes that atmosphere into jet streams that form the bands that astronomers have spied from Earth since the first telescopes.

At the pole the influence of that rotation seems to wane, or at least influence the atmosphere differently, so that the storms seem to form randomly and incoherently.

The image also shows that there appear to be several types of storms at the south pole. Some appear as tight spirals, similar to hurricanes. Others appear chaotic, with no consistent shape, almost like clouds on Earth.

The processes that would explain all this are not yet understood, in the slightest, and won’t be until we get orbiters at Jupiter able to watch the atmosphere continuously, as we do here on Earth. Then it will be possible to assemble movies of the formation and dissipation of these storms, and begin (only begin) to decipher what causes them.

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5 comments

  • pawn

    The pole looks like the night sky in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.

  • pawn: You notice something that almost everyone does. See for example this post on BtB of one of Juno’s earliest photo of Jupiter’s poles. I even included Van Gogh’s picture to illustrate the resemblance.

  • Andi

    Small edit – in the third paragraph, did you mean “wane”?

  • Andi: I did. Now fixed. Thank you.

  • MDN

    Bob:

    The physics here is simple, it is turbulent flow. Of course that isn’t a very helpful analysis as this is a regime beyond our ability to model and understand, precisely BECAUSE it is chaotic and random in behavior.

    I will add that this is a key reason I greatly discount global warming models, because they treat our atmosphere and oceans as predictable well behaved structures. But they are not. They are massive bodies of fluid riven with turbulent flow at all scales. and simply beyond our ability to understand with anything approaching certitude.

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