Scientists have received a 3D model of the atmosphere of Jupiter: it unravels the striping of the planet
In 2011, NASA launched the Juno interplanetary station to explore Jupiter – it reached its destination orbit in 2016, after which, during each of the 37 flights of the probe past the planet, special sensors “looked” under the turbulent cloud cover. Now, on October 28, 2021, scientists have published several articles about Juno’s discoveries in Science, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, and Geophysical Research Letters – each of which reveals a veil of secrets about the planet’s atmospheric processes. This was reported by NASA on its website.
“Earlier, Juno surprised us with hints that the phenomena in the atmosphere of Jupiter lie deeper than expected. Now we are starting to put all these separate pieces together and get the first real understanding of how Jupiter’s beautiful and turbulent atmosphere works – in 3D, ”said Scott Bolton, Juno Principal Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of an article in Science on the depth of Jupiter’s vortices.
Juno was able to obtain new data thanks to the microwave radiometer (MWR) installed on it, which made it possible to look under Jupiter’s clouds and study the structure of its many vortex storms. Among them is the most famous anticyclone, known as the Great Red Spot – this crimson vortex, larger than the Earth, has intrigued scientists since its discovery, that is, for almost two centuries.
New data suggests that storms on Jupiter are much higher than expected: some of them are 100 km high, while others, including the Great Red Spot, even reach 350 km. This unexpected discovery shows that vortices encompass areas beyond where water condenses and clouds form, and below where sunlight heats the atmosphere.
In addition to cyclones and anticyclones, Jupiter is characterized by its belts and zones – white and reddish stripes of clouds that go around the planet. Strong east-west winds moving in opposite directions separate these bands. Previously, Juno discovered that these jet streams reach a depth of about 3,200 kilometers. Researchers are still trying to solve the mystery of how such streams are formed. Data collected by the Juno microwave radiometer over several flights provide one possible clue: ammonia gas in the atmosphere moves up and down in surprising consistency with observed jet streams.
“Following the ammonia, we found circulation cells in the northern and southern hemispheres that are similar in nature to the ‘Ferrel cells’ that control most of our climate on Earth. While Earth has one Ferrel cell per hemisphere, Jupiter has eight — each at least 30 times larger, ”commented Keren Duer, a graduate student at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and lead author of an article in Science on similar on Ferrel cells on Jupiter.