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Juno's First Results Show Us Jupiter Is One Seriously Angry Giant

The planet exceeded our expectations.
Posted at 9:27 AM, Jun 03, 2017

We expected Jupiter to be a roiling hellscape — a planet with huge storms and radiation so harsh it can ruin conventional spacecraft. Now, with the very first data from NASA's Juno spacecraft, we can confirm it's even worse than we thought.

Researchers observed clusters of giant ammonium cyclones at Jupiter's poles. Some were more than 800 miles wide.

The gas giant's magnetic field turned out to be much stronger than expected — about 10 times the strength of Earth's. It also appears to change its size. It has expanded since Juno first arrived.

Researchers also may have determined what powers Jupiter's expansive auroras: Electron beams pouring energy into the planet's upper atmosphere. But they don't look the same as aurora patterns on Earth, which suggests space weather affects Jupiter in different ways.

This data comes from Juno's first close pass of Jupiter, so later orbits will probably bring more insight. Juno has completed five of the 37 orbits it will make through 2018.