Scientists working on NASA's Juno mission have released the results from spacecraft's first two orbits around the planet and the results have surprised everyone involved in the mission.
First launched in 2011, the Juno spacecraft began its orbit of Jupiter last year and the data uncovered has revealed some surprising findings.
The Core Question
One of the biggest questions regarding Jupiter was about the planet's core. Scientists tended to fall into one of two camps regarding this question. Either the core was rich in metals or it was diffuse. However, as it turns out, the truth appears to lie somewhere in between those two extremes.
"It does look like Jupiter has a core, but it's very large," said Scott Bolton. "It's diffuse, it's not as concentrated as we thought. We don't know exactly how it gets that way."
Another thing that surprised scientists is what the planet looks like beneath its layer of clouds. They had assumed that it would be rather boring with everything looking the same. However, Bolton says that is not the case. In fact, he went so far as to say that nothing about Jupiter looks they way they expected it to look.
"This is a close-up and personal look at Jupiter," said Bolton. "We thought it was uniform inside and relatively boring. What we're finding is anything but that. It's very complex. Jupiter from the poles doesn't look anything like it does from our usual view."
One particularly interesting discovery is the band of ammonia found near the planet's equator. These wells of ammonia are often the site of violent weather patterns that scientist say resemble the Hadley Cell found on Earth. However, Hadley Cells require a surface and, as far as we know, Jupiter has no surface.
Speaking of unexpected weather patterns, the cyclones surrounding Jupiter's poles also surprised scientists. Not only were they unexpected their existence only raises more questions. Right now, we don't have enough data determine if they're constant or part of changing weather patterns. The Juno team is hopeful that another year's worth of data can solve some of the mysteries surrounding the poles.
Yet another enduring mystery surrounding the gas giant is the amount of water it holds. Scientists are interested in studying the amount of water the planet holds because it could answer questions about how Earth, and our solar system as a whole, was formed.
All in all, this probe seemed to provide more questions than answers, but the Juno team is hopeful that, with more data, they'll unravel the planet's mysteries.