NASA's Juno mission delivers first scientific results

But it's even more intense than researchers thought and irregularly lumpy.

The first science results from NASA's Juno mission have been released and Jupiter doesn't disappoint; along with a enormous but lumpy magnetic field, this complex, turbulent world has Earth-sized polar cyclones and storm systems that reach deep into the heart of the largest planet in the solar system.

This image shows Jupiter's south pole, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers).

The Juno mission, an expedition part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, has delivered its first scientific results - and it's already proving to be very informative.

"We're puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter's north pole doesn't look like the south pole".

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The first study, led by Bolton, looks at the massive storms and cyclones located at Jupiter's poles.

Juno is in a polar orbit around Jupiter, and the majority of each orbit is spent well away from the gas giant.

One the surprises was revealed by the probe's imager, JunoCam. NASA says these cyclones stick up 30-60 miles above the cloud layer and are about half the diameter of Earth.

"We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves", Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a press release, "But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders".

"We're questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we're going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?"

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Another surprising discovery has something to do with Jupiter's magnetosphere. Notably, the belt near the equator penetrating all the way down, while the belts at other latitudes act differently, transforming into other structures as they go deeper.

Juno has also taken measurements of Jupiter's gravitational field, to see if it has a solid core, as some models have predicted, or no core at all. Two papers in the journal Science and 44 papers in Geophysical Research Letters describe a trove of discoveries made since the spaceship Juno began orbiting Jupiter past year.

The Juno Mission recently completed its fifth flyby around Jupiter, after entering the planet's orbit in July 2016.

With a magnetic field over 10x more powerful than Earth's, scientists are fascinated by the irregularity and sheer power of Jupiter's magnetosphere. In some places it's 10 times stronger than the strongest magnetic fields of Earth.

Juno's findings are "really going to force us to rethink not only how Jupiter works", said Bolton.

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Juno will next fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot - a giant storm that has been active on the planet for centuries - in July.

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