Swirling chaos in space

Swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices were seen within Jupiter's northern hemisphere on Sunday as Nasa's Juno spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of the planet.

The spacecraft was about 15,500km from the planet's cloud tops, above a northern latitude of 56 degrees.

The region seen here is somewhat chaotic and turbulent, given the various swirling cloud formations.

In general, the darker cloud material is deeper in Jupiter's atmosphere, while bright cloud material is higher. The bright clouds are most likely ammonia or ammonia and water, mixed with a sprinkling of unknown chemical ingredients.

A bright oval near the bottom stands out in the scene.

This feature appears uniformly white in ground-based telescope observations. However, with the JunoCam, we can observe the fine-scale structure within this weather system, including additional structures within it.

There is no significant motion apparent in the interior of this feature. Like Jupiter's Great Red Spot (above), its winds probably slow down greatly towards the centre.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'Swirling chaos in space'. Subscribe