March 10, 2018 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Behold, Jupiter's north pole! "The data being returned is unprecedented. And what scientists are learning is… well, weird. As expected. Jupiter is a weird place."
posted by dhruva (12 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Everything about Jupiter is eerie as fuck.
posted by selfnoise at 11:02 AM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Those polar cyclones are amazing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:14 AM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Jupiter is gonna kill us all isn’t it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:37 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]

Physics will explain all this once we get enough information.

Guns don't kill people. Physics kills people.
posted by hippybear at 1:25 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Attempt no landings waaaaaaay down there.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:41 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]

Man, if I needed to hide a GCU somewhere...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:46 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]

Physics kills people.

Physics describes how people are killed.

Usually at the secret orders of Jupiter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:56 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]

That YouTube video about the different streams and rotations was very well done.
posted by doctornemo at 4:31 PM on March 10

Hell is best rendered in the infra-red wavelengths.
posted by not_on_display at 9:41 PM on March 10

The dichotomy between the smooth and rough vortices is certainly striking, and it's tempting to think that one type is an upwelling and the other is a downwelling -- I would guess that the rough ones are upwellings?

Because the rough ones are also darker and therefore cooler, and gas welling up from below would expand against the lower pressure as it rose and therefore cool adiabatically, and that might explain the roughness too, if you imagine a liquid droplet component (basically clouds) of the upwelling material which would vaporize explosively at a certain pressure and leave cool dark voids that would make it look rough at the largest scale.

But maybe the dichotomy isn't as clear as I think it is, because according to Phil Plait:
That dark (cool) swirl is the Northern Polar Cyclone (or NPC), a vortex about 4,000 kilometers across — that's the distance from Los Angeles to New York City! It's surrounded by cool gas, and around that is an entirely bizarre string of eight cyclones, all about the same size. At first I thought they formed an octagon, but a better description is two overlapping and rotated squares, each square made by connecting every other cyclone around the pole.

Start with the one in the lower left (let’s call it cyclone 1): See how it looks smoother, slightly bigger, and more organized than the ones on either side of it? Once you see that, you'll see that cyclones 3, 5, and 7 are similar, and that 2, 4, 6, and 8 are less organized, rougher. It turns out the two overlapping patterns are different in other ways; for example, the centers of the odd ones are at a latitude of 82.5, and the even ones a bit farther north at 83.3° — a difference of nearly 1,000 km!
Because as I look at this picture, using his numbering going clockwise I see 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8 as smooth, and only 2, 4, and 6 as rough.

And Plait neglects to say in so many words, as far as I can tell, that the NPC itself looks essentially like a very large rough vortex.

Which I think gives us the clue we need to make a stab at explaining in a little more detail what's going on here.

Physics Girl has a very interesting video in which she generates a vortex tube shaped like half a torus in a swimming pool, where one end of the half-torus is an upwelling where it breaks the surface, and the other end is a downwelling; and this vortex tube moves steadily across the pool looking from above the the water like an upwelling and a downwelling vortex moving in tandem across the pool.

I think we're seeing a very similar situation here at the North Pole of Jupiter: we have paired vortices, an upwelling and a downwelling, which are connected by a vortex tube below the surface.

Yet we have different total numbers of upwellings and downwellings where, if they're paired, we would expect the numbers to be equal.

But remember that one of the researchers quoted in the article said that one of the big mysteries is that the vortices haven't merged together-- but I think they actually have!

Except in the picture we see, we can only be sure that two or more upwellings have merged to create the North Polar Cyclone, leaving an excess of downwelling vortices surrounding the NPC, presumably connected to it by their individual tubes below he surface.

And that explains the differences in latitudes between the smooth and rough vortices which Plait mentions, because the rough vortices are drawn to the big rough vortex at the pole and therefore have higher latitudes, and the smooth vortices are left behind (but still connected!) at the slightly lower latitudes.
posted by jamjam at 9:46 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Meh. Poles on Jupiter look more stupider; poles on Saturn got a better pattern.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:23 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]

(but seriously this is cool)

(space hexagons are also cool though)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 AM on March 11

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