The most recent information sent by NASA’s Juno spacecraft showcased that water makes up a small 0.25 percent of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The discoveries are important because when the space agency first approached the gas planet back in 1995 with its Galileo probe, the collected data implied that Jupiter might be drier than the Sun.
Solving the Solar System’s Mysteries
NASA’s new incredible find also answers some more questions regarding the Solar System’s formation. When the Solar System started to take shape, Jupiter was probably the first planet that began to form and orbit around the Sun.
As the planet Jupiter, also known as the King of the Solar System due to it being the most massive planet in our galactic neighborhood, came to life, it gathered a lot of the gas and dust that the Sun did not consume.
The findings of the Voyager probe first identified brightening within the clouds of the planet, something which usually needs humidity to form, but there has never been a specific data on how much water there is on Jupiter.
However, the most recent findings from Juno unveil the inconsistent way the water is spread across the gas giant, including near the surface and up in the clouds, something researchers did not expect to find.
Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said: “Just when we think we have things figured out, Jupiter reminds us how much we still have to learn. Juno’s surprise discovery that the atmosphere was not well mixed even well below the cloud tops is a puzzle that we are still trying to figure out. No one would have guessed that water might be so variable across the planet.”
“Every science flyby is an event of discovery. With Jupiter there is always something new. Juno has taught us an important lesson: We need to get up close and personal to a planet to test our theories,” he added.
Jupiter Has a Main Role in Protecting Earth
Cheng Li, a Juno researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, said that the team discovered that the water located in the equator of the planet is greater than what the Galileo spacecraft has estimated.
“Because the equatorial region is very unique at Jupiter, we need to compare these results with how much water is in other regions,” Li said.
Jupiter plays a significant role in defending Earth from asteroids, some researchers say. The gas planet has such a powerful gravitational pull that it helps to keep the asteroid belt, which is located between Mars and Jupiter, in the same spot, so asteroids are not escaping and moving around in the Solar System.
NASA has written on its website: “Astronomers think that if it were not for the giant planet Jupiter exerting its gravitational force on the asteroids in the belt, the inner planets would be constantly bombarded by large asteroids. The presence of Jupiter actually protects Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars from repeated asteroid collisions!”.