5 Jupiter Facts NASA's Juno Spacecraft Has Taught Us So Far

Underneath Jupiter’s outer layer of clouds lies…probably more clouds. But there’s definitely mystery down there, and lots of it.

For the last two years, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has revealed so many of the gas giant’s oddities to us. Launched on August 5, 2011August 5, 2011, Juno traveled 1.74 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers) to finally reach its destination on July 5, 2016.

On Wednesday, NASA uploaded one of itsone of its ScienceCast videoss rounding up some of Juno’s coolest finds. Some of them are recent revelations, like the discovery that Jupiter is harboring an intricate network of cyclones at its poles. The orbiter has also found that Jupiter has a “lumpy” magnetic field.

Even though we all know Saturn is the prettiest planet](RIP Cassini), we’ll give Juno a little bit of credit (not too much) by celebrating some of its coolest discoveries:


NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset

1. Jupiter’s winds are suuuuuper deep

Not “deep” as in profound, although swirling around in the vacuum of space does seem like a rather deep thought. In October, Juno revealed that Jupiter’s infamous winds might plunge 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) into the planet’s depths.

Jupiter from Juno's Perijove 12

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

2. Jupiter’s auroras are out of this world — literally

For a long time, scientists thought that Jupiter’s ultra-glowy auroras were created just like the ones on Earth. But in September 2017, Juno scientists announced the spacecraft totally flipped their initial assessment on its head.”

“At Jupiter, the brightest auroras are caused by some kind of turbulent acceleration process that we do not understand very well,” Juno researcher Barry Mauk said at the time. “There are hints in our latest data indicating that as the power density of the auroral generation becomes stronger and stronger, the process becomes unstable and a new acceleration process takes over. But we’ll have to keep looking at the data.”

Jupiter's Great Red Spot from Juno's Perijove 12

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

3. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is Even More Absurd Than We Thought

Until Juno came along, scientists couldn’t accurately gauge the depths of Jupiter’s most infamous hurricane. Juno’s very first flyby over the Great Red Spot back in July 2017 changed all that.

“Juno found that the Great Red Spot’s roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth’s oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top,” Juno co-investigator Andy Ingersoll said in a statement from NASA. “Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot’s base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere.”

Animation of Juno over Jupiter. I mean, it's an artist's rendition, but still oddly soothing.


4. Jupiter Sounds Like a Horror Movie Soundtrack

Okay, Jupiter doesn’t really emit a horrid shriek when you get close to it. But Juno’s Wave instrument did record some pretty freaky sounds as it entered Jupiter’s magnetic field in June 2016. The noise is actually “bow shock” caused by the spacecraft entering Jupiter’s magnetic field and slowing down solar winds.

You can listen below:

5. Jupiter is Simply Stunning

The pictures don’t lie. No mission has taken more up-close-and-personal photos of the gas giant than Juno — and the results are mesmerizing.


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