New Discoveries from Jupiter and Saturn Initiate New Discussions


Recently, the scientists received the latest data from Jupiter and Saturn that has challenged a lot of current theories about the planets in our solar system. The Juno and Cassini spacecraft sent the detailed magnetic and gravity data from the giant gas planets.

David Stevenson from Caltech terms the recent data as “invaluable but also confounding.” He is also participating in the 2019 March Meeting of American Physical Society which will be held in Boston. In the meeting, he will also present an update on both of the missions.

Besides this, he will present the work done so far in a press conference. The audience can watch the press conference and ask questions from him remotely by logging in to the link provided by them.

According to Stevenson, the recent data received from the gas planets is like puzzles that need to be explained yet. However, it has also clarified some of the theories about how planets were formed and how they developed magnetic fields.

Jupiter and Saturn
Image Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn for 13 years before it dived into the interior of the planet in 2017. While Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter for 2.5 years. The successful mission of Juno is a tribute to innovative design. It consists of instruments that are powered by solar energy and protected to withstand the fierce radiation environment.

In the current mission, the scientists included a microwave sensor on Juno. It was an unconventional choice but this allowed them to figure out the deep atmosphere using microwaves. The data received showed that the atmosphere deep inside the planet is evenly mixed. This phenomenon was a new concept compared to the conventional theories.

The researchers are further exploring weather events that could be related to possible explanations of such phenomenon. These include significant amounts of gas, liquids, and ice in different parts of the atmosphere. But they think that any explanation to this will be unorthodox.

The scientists also received perplexing data from other instruments on Juno including gravity and magnetic sensors. The gravity data confirmed the presence of heavier elements in the midst of Jupiter. As we know that, at least 90% of the mass of the gas planet consists of hydrogen and helium. The heavier elements are mixed with the hydrogen in the core. Most of them are in the form of metallic liquid amounting to more than 10 times the mass of Earth.

The magnetic field data consisted of spots indicating the regions of the anomalously low and high magnetic field. Moreover, there’s also a distinct difference between the northern and southern hemispheres.

This new data has provided rich information about the outer parts of both planets. The presence of heavier elements in abundance in these regions is still uncertain. However, the outer layers play a greater role in the generation of the magnetic fields of the two planets. The scientists are further working on experiments mimicking the pressures and temperatures on the gas planets to understand the processes that are going on.


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