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Fri May 26, 2017, 08:08 PM

This is Jupiter? Giant planet surprises scientists in Junos first flybys

Scientists with the NASA Juno mission have released the findings from the spacecraft’s first two orbits around Jupiter — and the results are unlike anything they expected.

Deep beneath its striped layers, Jupiter still has a surprising amount of structure that researchers had not predicted. The core, such as it may be, is not rocky and dense as they suspected, but large and diffuse. Even its auroras seem to work differently than Earth’s.

The deluge of findings, described in two papers in Science and more than 40 more in Geophysical Research Letters, mark the mission’s first major steps toward unlocking the mysteries of Jupiter, which lie at the heart of our understanding of planetary formation.

Launched in 2011, Juno entered orbit around the gas giant last year — the first satellite to do so since Galileo last circled it in 2003. The new spacecraft is bristling with instruments meant to probe the planet’s magnetosphere, polar regions, composition and interior structure.


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