NASA's Stunning Juno Images Reveal Jupiter's Hurricane-Like Spiral Wind Patterns

Jupiter's wind patterns
A new image taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft reveals a stunning view of vortices near Jupiter's north pole. The image above of the hurricane-like spirals was shared by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and edited by citizen scientist Brian Swift.

Jupiter is known for its Great Red Spot, an anticyclone large enough for Earth to fit inside. Recent data has suggested that the cyclones on Jupiter are warmer on top, with lower atmospheric densities, while being colder on the bottom, with higher densities. Anticyclones, such as the Great Red Spot, are colder at the top and warmer at the bottom. However, it is an image taken of the planet's north pole that has the attention of scientists at the moment.

jupiter pole
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). these powerful storms at the north pole can be 30 miles (50 kilometers) in height and hundreds of miles across. Scientists believe that by figuring out how they form, they can better understand Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the fluid dynamics and chemistry that make up the rest of the planet's atmospheric actions.

In particular, scientists are wanting to better understand the vortices' shapes, sizes, and colors. As an example, cyclones which spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern, and anti-cyclones which spin clockwise in the northern and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, showcase very different colors and shapes.

five year vortices
Image Credit: NASA/JPL

One way they are looking into understanding this better, is by looking at how these cyclones change over time. In the image above, cyclones of Jupiter's south pole can be seen in 2016 and then again in 2021. The images were taken using Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). In both images, five cyclones are arranged as a pentagon, with a sixth cyclone in the center (south pole).

One exciting thing to note is that anyone can help with this research. A NASA citizen science project, Jovian Vortex Hunter, is seeking volunteers from the public to spot and help categorize vortices and other atmospheric phenomena. There is no specialized training or software needed, and can be done by anyone who has access to a cellphone or laptop. If you would like to partake in this research, you can find out more by visiting Zooniverse.org.

Top Image Credit: NASA/JPL