Scientists might finally know what forces are responsible for causing giant cyclones at the poles of our solar system’s largest planet, Jupiter. Conducted by scientists from the University of California San Diego, a new study has suggested that the cyclones are caused by the same forces that drive the ocean currents here on Earth. The conclusion is based on the data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft which has been scanning Jupiter since 2016. It is pertinent to mention here that the spacecraft, in 2016, provided the first look at Jupiter's cyclones which have a radius of about 1,000 kilometres.
The study, led by Oceanographer Lia Siegelman who is also a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, suggests that it is the process of convection that causes both cyclones on Jupiter and moves oceans on Earth. Convection is basically the process in which there is an expansion in the hotter air, which then rises to higher altitudes where the air is colder and denser.
Siegelman reportedly found that there is a striking similarity between Jupiter’s polar cyclones and the vortices made on Earth’s oceans. “When I saw the richness of the turbulence around the Jovian cyclones with all the filaments and smaller eddies, it reminded me of the turbulence you see in the ocean around eddies. These are especially evident on high-resolution satellite images of plankton blooms for example”, Siegelman said as per the University of California’s statement.
In order to compare the similarities between the common process in two different worlds, the scientists analysed many infrared images of Jupiter’s north pole and especially the polar vortex cluster. Using the images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, the scientists also calculated the wind speed and direction by tracking the movement of Jupiter’s clouds.
A thorough analysis of the pictures allowed them to pin areas with less cloud cover that allowed them to peer deep into Jupiter’s internal atmosphere. The analysis revealed that the hotter air rises, just like here on Earth, and transfers energy to the clouds which then transform into huge cyclones. “To be able to study a planet that is so far away and find physics that apply there is fascinating”, Siegelman said and added that understanding Jupiter’s energy system could one day help understand similar large-scale phenomenon playing out on our planet.