Science

Telescopes and spacecraft join forces to probe deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere

Telescopes and spacecraft join forces to probe deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere”

While much has been gleaned about Jupiter from previous space missions, numerous details - including how much water is in the deep atmosphere, exactly how heat flows from the interior and what causes certain colors and patterns in the clouds - remain a mystery.

It is the distance from Earth to Jupiter.

This creates a "jack-o-lantern"-like effect in the images where the warm, deep layers of Jupiter's atmosphere glow through gaps in the planet's thick cloud cover".

This graphic shows observations and interpretations of cloud structures and atmospheric circulation on Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory.

The Hubble data show the height of the thick clouds in the convective towers, as well as the depth of deep water clouds. The photographs, when seen together with the Hubble and Juno observations, disclosed that that lightning strikes and largest storm techniques are created "in and round giant convective cells" over clouds of ice and water. "Ongoing studies of lightning sources will help us understand how convection on Jupiter is different from or similar to convection in the Earth's atmosphere". Understanding about the planet's atmosphere and water content can reveal how the planet was formed.

The storm bands that encircle the entire gas giant reach far higher than our own atmosphere, and penetrating the thick smog has proven extremely hard for even our most advanced instruments, whether space based or located back here on Earth.

"This is our equivalent of a weather satellite", said Simon.

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The information gathered also helped the researchers confirm that the spots in the large red patch that appeared dark at Hubble are actually gaps in the cloud cover and are not variations in cloud color, as previously believed. Images sent back by Juno and other missions have revealed dark features that evolve over time within the storm. However, researchers were not sure if features were caused by an actual dark material in the clouds or holes in the clouds showing layers below. The ultra-sharp Gemini infrared images complement optical and ultraviolet observations by Hubble and radio observations by the Juno spacecraft to reveal new secrets about the giant planet. In visible light, these appear dark. Regions that are dark in visible light are very bright in infrared, indicating that they are, in fact, holes in the cloud layer. Normally, this process is blocked by Jupiter's massive clouds.

"It's kind of like a jack-o-lantern", explained astronomer Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley.

One of the most interesting things about Jupiter is the Great Red Spot.

Using "lucky imaging", many short-exposure, sharp images are taken when Earth's atmosphere is momentarily stable. It comes to images, the most accurate ever taken of this gaseous planet from the Earth.

According to Wong, "These images rival the view from space".

For instance, Gemini was able to get 300-mile resolution on Jupiter.

"At this resolution, the telescope could resolve the two headlights of a vehicle in Miami, viewed from New York City", said Andrew Stephens, Gemini astronomer who led the observations, in a statement.



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