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Space NASA Science

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Jupiter's Interior In Unprecedented Detail (theguardian.com) 52

NASA's Juno spacecraft has revealed that Jupiter's iconic striped bands, caused by immensely powerful winds, extend to a depth of about 3,000km below the surface. The findings also provide a partial answer to the question of whether the planet has a core, "showing that the inner 96% of the planet rotates 'as a solid body,' even though technically it is composed of an extraordinarily dense mixture of hydrogen and helium gas," reports The Guardian. From the report: The findings are published in four separate papers in the journal Nature, describing the planet's gravitational field (surprisingly asymmetrical), atmospheric flows, interior composition and polar cyclones. A crucial question was whether the bands on Jupiter, caused by air currents that are five times as strong as the most powerful hurricanes on Earth, were a "weather" phenomenon comparable to the Earth's jet streams or part of a deep-seated convection system. Juno's latest observations point to the latter, showing the jets continued to around 3,000km beneath the surface -- deep enough to cause ripples and asymmetries in the planet's gravitational field that were perceptible to detectors on the spacecraft. On Earth, the atmosphere represents about a millionth of the mass of the whole planet. The latest work suggests that on Jupiter the figure is closer to 1%. The new findings, based on extremely sensitive gravitational measurements, also begin to paint a picture of the internal structure of the planet.
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NASA Spacecraft Reveals Jupiter's Interior In Unprecedented Detail

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  • Amazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @03:43AM (#56226007)

    These articles are among the best on Slashdot. With me not following Astronomy-related news closely, but having an interest in Astronomy, they're always very welcome and nice surprises.

  • JunoCAM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @04:27AM (#56226109)

    JunoCAM, which is a seriously downgraded camera system (there is barely a zoom on the lens), almost wasn't even included on this mission since NASA felt visual observations were unnecessary and wouldn't provide anything useful scientifically. Just imagine we could have had even better visuals than this if a larger more sophisticated camera was included. Oh well.

    • For a much better level of Jupiter photography, you have to wait until 1979, when Voyager 2 is to be around.
    • Re: JunoCAM (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      3 of the 4 papers are based on results of instruments other than the Juno am, and putting a better visual camera on there would not have improved the results (including many of the pretty pictures too). There was some serious concern about guaranteeing the lifetime of the camera too due to radiation. So putting a better camera on there, which would also mean budgeting more for the use of the data, and budgeting more for hardening of that camera, would mean making cut backs on the other instruments. Other in

    • JunoCAM, which is a seriously downgraded camera system (there is barely a zoom on the lens), almost wasn't even included on this mission since NASA felt visual observations were unnecessary and wouldn't provide anything useful scientifically.

      Let's take a look at the data sources for the papers as described in their abstracts...

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        They do help sell the mission and the next mission to the public who are paying for it. It's probably worthwhile doing a bit less science in exchange for pretty pictures to make financing the next mission more likely.

        • They do help sell the mission and the next mission to the public who are paying for it. It's probably worthwhile doing a bit less science in exchange for pretty pictures to make financing the next mission more likely.

          In a world where there was ever any significant public debate on planetary missions, that would be a sensible claim. We don't live in such a world. The general public doesn't give a rats ass about space. They're not going to call their congresscritters and go "I didn't get any pretty pictur

    • And that's exactly NASA's problem. NASA needs to realize they are taxpayer-funded, and that taxpayers want to see (literally) something for their money. And you don't do that with fuzzy 1950's black-and-white pictures or pictures of the "LSD trip" kind (*cough* colour-enhanced *cough*) and certainly not with fancy graphs.

      Part of the planetery missions need to be sacrificed to keep the paymasters happy. A visible-light human-visible-spectrum HD colour camera with zoom quite nicely fits that job. That's why p

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @04:57AM (#56226167)

    I was hoping to see inside Uranus.
    .
    .
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    .
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    OKAY! It's been posted. Sorry folks, you're too late to make the joke now.

    • You could see that daily on Slashdot a couple of decades ago.

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @07:09AM (#56226395) Journal

      I was hoping to see inside Uranus. . . . . . . OKAY! It's been posted. Sorry folks, you're too late to make the joke now.

      I don't know why you think that is a joke. It's called the Advanced NASA Atmospheric Lithographic Lidar [nasa.gov] Probe [yahoo.com] and it was designed to update us about the aerosols in Uranus.

      Last I heard they were figuring out just how many instruments they can include to explore Uranus and the rings around it. First the rings and then and deep as they can go for as long as there is battery power remaining to keep all of the instruments going before it is crushed by the pressure of the most concentrated source of methane in the solar system. That's right, there is a lot of methane in Uranus.

      If you're laughing now, you can just stop it - you're being juvenile. Exploring Uranus is a serious undertaking that many people are committed to and clever jokes about "hoping to see inside Uranus" are just unsophisticated. We're better than that here.

      • Of course scientists got tired of all of these jokes and renamed Uranus in 2620 to Urectum.

      • We're better than that here.

        Have you met us?

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          We're better than that here.

          Have you met us?

          Yes I have and I don't understand why probing Uranus with battery power instruments has been moderated funny.

          WE NEED TO TAKE URANUS MORE SERIOUSLY PEOPLE!!

      • by neoRUR ( 674398 )

        So when the probe runs out of life are they going to crash it into Uranus like they did on Saturn? So they can see what is down there?

    • I was hoping to see inside Uranus

      Well, if Uranus internals looks like Jupiters find a physician near you.

  • by vix86 ( 592763 ) on Thursday March 08, 2018 @09:14AM (#56226651)

    As always, the scale of things in space is always nuts, especially when talking about the Sun and Jupiter.

    These winds extend nearly 3,000kms into the planet, for comparison, Earth's diameter is roughly 12,700km and Mars is ~6,000km. So the winds extend roughly a 1/4 of the Earth and basically half of mars.

  • Surface (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2018 @09:43AM (#56226743)

    For general information, the surface is said (by consensus) to be the depth at which the atmospheric pressure is the same as that at sea level on Earth. There is no adjustment for gravity nor temperature. That is, it is pressure and not density. I mention this since it isn't obvious what "surface" means when applied to gas giants (or stars, for that matter - although stars have a completely different (and incompatible) definition for their "surface".)

    • Jupiter probably almost certainly has a sizable metallic core. That core is almost certainly molten given the temperatures involved (unless there is some sort of weird convection / insulation going on).
  • >> On Earth, the atmosphere represents about a millionth of the mass of the whole planet. The latest work suggests that on Jupiter the figure is closer to 1%.

    However, the article also says, "the inner 96% of the planet rotates as a solid body, even though technically it is composed of an extraordinarily dense mixture of hydrogen and helium gas"

    So...is that 1% really 4%?
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      One figure might be mass whereas the other is volume. Or radius (since they were talking about depth as well).

  • Jupiter is an almost red dwarf star.

    Study of it tells us a lot about small stars.

  • If you read the attached article at The Guardian, you might note that Nasa could extend this mission, it's a question of budgeting. This is the first I heard that the spacecraft could continue operating past this point. It will cost billions for the next mission to the outer planets, 3 or 4 billion a year on the pointless job creator/SLS mission, shouldn't we extend this mission if we can?

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor

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