NASA’s Juno probe probes first probe of Jupiter’s atmospheric water molecules

NASA says the Juno mission provides the first scientific results about how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Juno’s study estimates that in Jupiter’s equatorial region, water accounts for about 0.25 percent of the molecules in Jupiter’s atmosphere. The findings represent the first study of the rich waters of the gas giant planet since the Galileo mission in 1995.

About 0.25 percent of Jupiter’s atmosphere is nearly three times as much water as the sun, NASA said. NASA also noted that the comparison between Jupiter and the sun is not based on liquid water, but on the presence of water components such as oxygen and hydrogen. Information about the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere is important in determining how the wind flows on Jupiter’s surface and its internal structure.

The probe has found lightning on Jupiter, suggesting water, but so far it has not been possible to accurately estimate the amount of water in the atmosphere. But about 57 minutes of data transmitted during the Galileo probe’s plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995 showed that the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere was about 10 times less than expected.

Launched in 2011, one of its missions is to get water abundance readings across much of Jupiter. The Juno probe uses its microwave radiometer, which uses six antennas to measure atmospheric temperatureators at multiple depths simultaneously. The instrument makes full use of the fact that water absorbs certain wavelengths of microwave radiation.

Juno’s team is eager to determine how atmospheric water levels vary with latitude and region. The Juno probe’s 24th scientific flight of Jupiter took place on February 17th, and the next one took place on April 10th. The team says there are new findings for each flyby.

NASA's Juno probe probes first probe of Jupiter's atmospheric water molecules