Great Blue Spot may reveal Jupiter's magnetic secrets

If we think of the ocean simply as a large liquid body, then the largest ocean in the Solar System is on Jupiter. Unlike terrestrial seas, formed by water, the Jovian Ocean is composed of hydrogen in a peculiar state: metallic liquid, subjected to immense pressures and high temperatures.

The latest research reveals the complexity of this ocean. Significant changes over a short period of four years indicate more intricate internal dynamics, connecting atmospheric events to magnetic anomalies detected by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Artist's representation of the Juno probe flying over Jupiter. Credit: NASA images – Shutterstock

Juno probe investigates Jupiter's Great Blue Spot

Comparable in shape to Earth's magnetic field, but twenty times more powerful, Jupiter has a magnetic dipole, with north and south poles connected by magnetic lines. Peculiarities arise from elements such as the volcanic moon Io, which generates plasma influencing the magnetosphere, and a long magnetic stripe in the northern hemisphere.

However, a truly enigmatic feature is the “Great Blue Spot”, a vast circular region near Jupiter's equator – despite its name, its color is not exactly blue. Recent studies by the Juno probe reveal an atmospheric jet associated with this spot, presenting periodic variations in consecutive orbits.

Recent studies by the Juno probe reveal an atmospheric jet associated with Jupiter's so-called blue spot. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

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Scientists consider two hypotheses to explain these four-year fluctuations. They can be caused by oscillations in the planet's axis of rotation or by Alfvén waves, which move along magnetic field lines. Distinguishing between these scenarios remains a challenge for the research team.

The Juno probe's ongoing discoveries expand our understanding of the gas giant Jupiter and its mysterious interior. More detailed analyzes of these phenomena could shed light on the development of magnetic fields on giant planets. This research, published this Wednesday (6) in the magazine Naturerepresents another step on the journey to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

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