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Jupiter is nothing like scientists expected

Heat radiating from cyclones on Jupiter's South Pole.
Heat radiating from cyclones on Jupiter's South Pole. Credit: NASA / SWRI / JPL / ASI / INAF / IAPS

New data from NASA's Juno spacecraft show patterns of cyclones, a core that behaves like a solid, and a jet stream that, unlike on Earth, extends deep into the planet.

Why it matters: Despite all of the beautiful images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot nestled among its iconic bands, little is known about what is happening in the planet's interior. The structure could hint at the formation of the solar system's largest and first planet — and of Earth's later origins.

Quote"In almost every field, our ideas of what Jupiter was like are largely incorrect."
— Scott Bolton, Principal Investigator of NASA's Juno mission

Key findings from the four studies published in Nature today:

What's next: Two-thirds of Juno's mission remains. One outstanding question is how much oxygen there is in Jupiter in the form of water. "Understanding the distribution of oxygen in the early solar system, will help us understand the origin of oceans and therefore life itself," says Bolton.