Scientists baffled by mysterious cyclones at Jupiter’s poles

The massive polygon-shaped cyclone systems at the north and south poles of Jupiter have left scientists confused about how to preserve their strange but beautiful geometric shapes for years.

Hurricane-force storms – all the size of the continental United States – have remained inexplicably stable in their exotic configurations since the Juno spacecraft first discovered them in 2017.

At the north pole of the gas giant, the spacecraft observed a massive hurricane surrounded by eight smaller tornadoes that appeared to be orbiting around it. In Antarctica, there is a structure similar to hurricanes in the shape of a hexagon.

Now, a group of scientists led by Andrew P. Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology said they may have found some explanation for the strange phenomenon on the planet – the largest in the solar system.

Scientists have found that it appears to be an “anti-eddy loop” between a major cyclone and smaller cyclones that keeps clusters in their unique polygonal patterns, according to a new study of Arctic vortices, published Wednesday in Nature Astronomy.

Scientists have puzzled for years as to the patterns of polygonal cyclones that form at Jupiter’s poles.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / ASIA / INF / EXIST

However, there are still many questions about storms.

“Since 2017, the Juno spacecraft has observed a cyclone at Jupiter’s north pole surrounded by eight smaller cyclones arranged in a polygonal pattern,” the study says. “It is not clear why this formation is stable or how to maintain it.”

“The individual polygons and vortices that compose them have been stable for 4 years since Juno discovered them,” the researchers continued. “Polygonal patterns rotate slowly or not at all.”

The researchers used a series of images captured by Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper [JIRAM] In Juneau to track winds with a polar cyclone and two polar cyclones, according to the study.

However, the scientists did not find what they expected based on “previous assumptions about dynamics” regarding the “expected signature of convection – a spatial correlation between divergence and anti-vortex vortex.”

The researchers said more research on southern cyclones of Jupiter is needed to reconcile the conflicting data.

“These tornadoes are new climate phenomena that we have not seen or predicted before,” said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley in a 2019 NASA study on hurricanes.

“Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work. We are beginning to make sense of it through computer observations and simulations. Future Juno flybys will help us improve our understanding by revealing how hurricanes develop over time.”

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