From its position, high above Jupiter’s cloud tops, the tiny spacecraft Juno has given us an extraordinary new view of the innards of the solar system’s giant.
Jupiter weighs more than twice as much as all the other planets put together. Howling winds race around its equator in streaks of orange, white and blue. Jupiter’s largest storm, The Great Red Spot, rages seemingly without end.
That atmospheric turbulence has always hidden the entrails of the gas giant from view. Using sensitive instruments aboard Juno, scientists have managed to get their first look.
As the spacecraft sweeps over Jupiter, it measures the planet’s gravity and magnetic field, which change from area to area. Using this data – something like an interplanetary X-ray – scientists found the planet’s atmosphere extends about 3000 kilometres below cloud level.
Below that, the gas giant becomes ‘solid’: a fluid mixture of hydrogen and helium, which rotates together.