The Juno spacecraft is revealing what’s churning below the surface of the largest planet in the solar system.
Most of the planet Jupiter is painted in red and white, with exquisite stripes and splotches brushed onto its face. But, it turns out, its poles are dark blue and marked by a multitude of cyclones that scientists have now seen up close.
Observations from NASA’s Juno spacecraft — which was the first to get a clear look at the gas giant’s poles — show the tempestuous curlicues clustered in geometric configurations, with several storms surrounding a central spiral. In the north, the storms are arranged in an octagonal shape. In the south, they form a pentagon.
Juno has been orbiting the planet since July 2016, and it snapped images of the planet in both visible and infrared light. These allowed scientists to measure the size and temperature of the violent spirals, most of which are at least as wide as the United States.