NASA’s Juno probe has captured some of the most beautiful photos of Jupiter over the years, and now the space agency has formed a citizen scientist project so the public can help with the work of identifying atmospheric features of the gas giant captured by the probe.
The project is called Jovian Vortex Hunter and it is led by researchers at the University of Minnesota and NASA with the goal of categorizing the different types of clouds on Jupiter, Digital Trends reports. The researchers are interested in determining the underlying fluid dynamics that lead to the formation of vortices and turbulent structures on the gas giant and examine images obtained by the Juno mission in order to do so.
“There are so many images that it would take several years for our small team to examine all of them,” physics and astronomy postdoctoral researcher Ramanakumar Sankar, who is leading the Jovian Vortex Hunter project, says.
“We need help from the public to identify which images have vortices, where they are and how they appear. With the catalog of features (particularly vortices) in place, we can study the physics behind how these features form, and how they are related to the structure of the atmosphere, particularly below the clouds, where we cannot directly observe them.”
The researchers hope to answer three main questions: Is there a difference in diversity between cyclonic and anticylonic features, what are the different cloud structures possible, and how are brown barges (elongated cyclones that have a deep brown color) different from other cyclonic features?
“Jupiter’s atmosphere is much like ours: there are clouds of different shapes and sizes. On Jupiter, most of the clouds are made of chemicals other than water, and can be several thousand kilometers in size,” the Jovian Vortex Hunter researchers explain.
“Some clouds are also created from powerful storms that are over 50 kilometers/30 miles in height and hundreds of kilometers across. Figuring out how these clouds form is very important for understanding Jupiter’s atmosphere, and the processes create the amazing features that we see.”
Jovian refers to the type of cloud that the team is predominantly interested in researching.
“The different clouds on Jupiter form in different atmospheric conditions (e.g., storms, vortices), similar to how we get different types of clouds when the atmosphere is calm, or stormy. The types of clouds on Jupiter are also highly dependent on the chemical that forms them. Jupiter has three main cloud layers: ammonia clouds are mostly the ones which we can see since they form at the very top, followed by a layer of ammonium hydrosulfide (a key ingredient in stink bombs, so these clouds are not the best smelling!). Deep in the atmosphere (about 150 kilometers/100 miles below the ammonia clouds), we will find thick water clouds,” the researchers explain.
“In order to understand how these different clouds form, we need to look at the diversity of the cloud features in the jovian atmosphere. In this project, we will create that catalogue and group together the different cloud features from JunoCam images.”
Jovian Vortex Hunter is classified as a citizen science project, which is a collaboration between scientists and interested members of the public. There are multiple citizen science projects available at any given time.
Those interested in working on this project can do so through the Jovian Vortex Hunter website.
Image credits: NASA JPL, JunoCam