Data from Juno and Cassini reveals some New Surprises

Data from Juno and Cassini reveals some New Surprises

Data from Juno and Cassini reveals some New Surprises
Image Credits: SciSeek

The latest data from the Juno and Cassini missions has forced the scientists to think again about the current theories of planetary formation in our Solar System.

The data from the Cassini and Juno missions is questioning the authenticity of the current theories about how planets form and behave around our Sun. David Stevenson, a Researcher at Caltech who presented an update on both the missions, last week, at the 2019 American Physical Society March Meeting, acknowledged that they have found priceless information about gravity and magnetic field of the gas giants through these missions. Having said that, they have also found some new surprises in that data. That’s the reason why Stevenson referred to it as invaluable but also confounding. He described the significance of this data in the following words:

“Although there are puzzles yet to be explained, this is already clarifying some of our ideas about how planets form, how they make magnetic fields and how the winds blow.”

Cassini Mission

Cassini spacecraft entered the orbit of Saturn on 1st July 2004 and continued to study the planetary system for the next 13 years. Its journey came to an end on September 2017 as it dived into the planet’s interior. On its way to Saturn, Cassini included flybys of Venus, Jupiter, and the Asteroid 2685 Masursky. The trajectory of the spacecraft was managed in a way that it burned up in the upper atmosphere of the planet. This was done in order to prevent any risk to the moons of Saturn that could offer habitable environments for extraterrestrial life.

This mission revolutionized human understanding of the Saturn system, including its moons and rings. Cassini exceeded all expectations by surviving for so long as its original mission was planned to last for 4 years (from 2004 to 2008). During the last stages of its mission, the spacecraft made a number of risky passes between the inner rings of the planet in order to maximize the scientific outcome of Cassini before its death.  

Juno Mission

Juno entered the polar orbit of Jupiter on 5th July 2016, after launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011. The primary goals of this mission are to measure the chemical composition, magnetic field, gravity field, and polar magnetosphere of the gas giant. It will also provide some useful insights into the planetary formation of Jupiter. Scientists believe that the success of the Juno Mission clearly reflects the quality of its innovative design. The fact that all the instruments of this probe are powered by solar energy makes it highly efficient in extreme conditions. Similarly, its protective mechanism can withstand the fierce radiation environment.

Sensors on Juno

A range of quality instruments was added to Juno, including gravity sensors, magnetic sensors, and a microwave sensor. The data from the magnetic sensors showed a striking difference between the magnetic field of northern and southern hemispheres. In addition to that, researchers found regions of the anomalously high or low magnetic field in the perplexing data. Referring to that, Stevenson said,

“It’s unlike anything we have seen before.”

Stevenson mentioned that it was a good move to include a microwave sensor on Juno. The microwave data is the one that surprised the scientists the most as it showed that the atmosphere is evenly mixed. It is a complete contradiction of the predictions made by conventional theories. Although some researchers are trying to use weather events concentrating significant amounts of ice, liquids, and gas in different parts of the atmosphere as possible explanations, the matter is far from solved. Stevenson acknowledged that the explanation for this data have to be unorthodox by saying,

“Using microwaves to figure out the deep atmosphere was the right, but unconventional, choice. Any explanation for this has to be unorthodox.”

The gravity data indicated that there are massive amounts of heavier elements in the midst of Jupiter, which is nearly 10 times heavier than the mass of our planet. Having said that, they are not concentrated in a core but are mixed with a metallic liquid of Hydrogen. Despite the fact that there is a considerable amount of uncertainty about the abundance of these heavier elements, scientists are confident that the outer layers of Saturn and Jupiter play a larger-than-expected role in generating their magnetic fields.

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