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SAN FRANCISCO — NASA's Juno probe discovered a giant new storm swirling near Jupiter's south pole last month, a few weeks after pulling off a dramatic death-dodging maneuver.
The southern tempests are arrayed in a strikingly regular fashion. Previously, five of them had formed a pentagon around a central storm, which is as wide as the continental United States. With the new addition, that girdling structure is now a hexagon.
Cyclones - Weather - Phenomena - Cheng - Li
"These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before," Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement yesterday (Dec. 12).
"Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work," he added. "We are beginning to grasp it through observations and computer simulations. Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time."
Juno - Jupiter - Path - Earth - Days
Juno orbits Jupiter on a highly elliptical path every 53 Earth days, gathering most of its data when it comes closest to the giant planet. And those encounters are quite close indeed: During the Nov. 3 pass, the 22nd science flyby of Juno's $1.1 billion mission, the probe skimmed a mere 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops, NASA officials said.
But it took some fancy flying to make sure Juno survived the experience. The mission team determined that the probe's trajectory would take Juno into Jupiter's shadow for 12 hours on Nov. 3. And that likely would've been a death sentence for the solar-powered probe.
Juno - Project - Scientist - Steve - Levin
"We would've gotten cold. Really, really cold," Juno project scientist Steve Levin, of NASA's...
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