New Solar System Questions

(Dwarf planets and other objects in the Kuiper belt cluster together in unusual orbits.  Scientists have suggested that may be because of the existence of a 9th planet–a large gas planet, beyond Neptune.  They have not found one yet; they continue to look, and also to investigate alternative explanations for the way that these objects in the Kuiper belt move.)

NASA Invested in Cracking the Earth’s Carbon Puzzle.

There are increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere–what will be the consequences?  The fact that carbon moves in a complicated cycle, or set of cycles, through earth, water, and atmosphere, makes this a challenging question to investigate.  In 2014, NASA launched a carbon-observing mission that will measure the how carbon travels through the Earth’s carbon cycle.

 Juno comes close enough to gather information for a couple of hours every 53 days.  It is the first solar-power mission to Jupitor, launching on 8/5/2011, orbiting Jupiter since 7/4/2016.

They are trying to understand the origin of Jupiter, because it is the key to understanding how the solar system formed.  The sun makes up 99.5% of the mass in the solar system is the sun, and the sun formed first; more than 2/3 of the remaining .5% is in Jupiter, which formed next.  Jupiter formed from the leftovers from the sun, and the rest formed from the leftovers from Jupiter.

They want to understand the mass of Jupiter’s core, and how much water is on Jupiter (did it form from chunks of ice colliding?).  They want to figure out how material moves deep within the planet.  they want to know more about the atmosphere, including the red spot (a storm bigger than the entire earth.)

Juno also crosses all of Jupiter’s magnetic field lines.  Away from the planet, there are these giant radiation belts that generate radiowaves, that produce aurora lights by the particles hitting the outer atmosphere.  They basically follow the magnetic field lines.

Some of what has been discovered about Jupiter:  Jupiter really bulges because it is so massive.  Also, there are storms on the north and south poles-five cyclones (all spinning in the same direction) in the south, eight in the north, surrounding the poles. They last for a really long time, and these are bigger than even our continents.  This is much different than Saturn, where the poles looked a lot like the rest of the planet.

Jupitor doesn’t have a dipole field, like the Earth does.  It’s more variable, on smaller patches on the planet.  It also has more variation in the north part of the planet than the south.

The great red spot goes as deep as they could measure–at least 350 kilometers.

They found a big fuzzy core inside Jupiter–the belts and zones are 3,000 km deep.