In DepthPlanetary Science

Dueling spacecraft look deep into Saturn and Jupiter

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Science  18 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6424, pp. 214-215
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6424.214

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Measures by two NASA spacecraft, Cassini and Juno, are revealing the interiors of the solar system's gas giants like never before. Using minute Doppler shifts in radio signals from the spacecraft, scientists have been able to map the shape of gravity fields at both planets, allowing them to infer the density and movements of material deep inside. They have revealed that, at both planets, the surface-shaping winds extend down to a midway point where hydrogen turns into a semiconductor and the winds' momentum is quenched by the planets' magnetic fields. Studies of the deep interior, however, remain more uncertain. Juno is only halfway through its mission, and Cassini burned up in Saturn's atmosphere in 2017. Cassini's study of Saturn's rings, however, could reveal a new way to gauge the planet: The rings feature wavelike patterns that record evidence of oscillations from its deep interior.