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

According to NASA( National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the Hubble telescope and the Gemini watch from afar, capturing high-resolution global views of Jupiter that are key to interpreting Juno’s close-up observations of the planet.

With thunderheads that tower forty miles high and strech half the width of a continent, hurricanes, force winds in enormous storms that rage for centuries and lightning three times as powerful as Earth’s strongest superbolts,

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini Observatory in Hawaii have teamed up with the Juno Spacecraft to probe the mightiest storms in the solar system, taking place more than 500 million miles away on the giant planet Jupiter,

The imaging of the Jupiter by Hubble and Gemini in support of the Juno mission is proving valuable in studies of many other weather phenomena as well, including changes in the wind patterns, characteristics of atmospheric waves and the circulation of various gases in the athmosphere.

The team based on the ground including Michael Wong, spends his days tracking storm system and lightning flashes on Jupiter like some Earth-bound meteorologist looking for harbingers of bad weather also having the help of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, which have teamed up with the Juno Spacecraft now orbiting Jupiter to probe the mightiest storms in the solar system that take place more than 500 millions miles from Earth;

We want to know how Jupiter’s atmosphere worls “ said Michael Wong.

Their latest results, now online in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, show that lightning outbreaks are associated with a three-way combination of cloud structures:

– Deep clouds made of water, large convective towers caused by upwelling of moist air essentially Jovian thunderheads and clear regions presumably caused by downwelling of drier air outside the convective towers.

Wong and Imke de Pater saw the same three clouds structural elements associated with the lightning storm detected in 2017 by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Aray(ALMA) in chile and seen a month later by Juno.

The Hubble data indicate the height of the thick clouds in the convective towers, as well as the depth of water clouds deep in the planet. The Gemini data clearly reveal the clearings in the high-level clouds, where it is possible to get a glimpse down to the deep water clouds.

Wong thinks that lightning — which on Jupiter can be three times more energetic than the largest “superbolts” on Earth — is common in turbulent areas that are known as folded filamentary regions, their name suggesting that moist convection is occurring in them.

These cyclonic vortices could be internal energy smokestacks, helping (to) release internal energy through convection,” he said. “It doesn’t happen everywhere, but something about these cyclones seems to facilitate convection.”

Wong credits numerous Berkeley students who have contributed to the project, including Josh Tollefson, now a postdoctoral scholar, who wrote the first science paper using the data; former undergraduates Megan Barnett and Andrew Hsu, who processed many gigabytes of Gemini and Hubble data; and doctoral student Charles Goullaud, who developed tools for polar mapping. Barnett and Hsu are now pursuing graduate studies at the University of Chicago and Florida Institute of Technology, respectively.

The ability to correlate lightning with deep water clouds also gives researchers another tool for estimating the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which is important for understanding how Jupiter and the other gas and ice giants formed, and, therefore, how the solar system as a whole formed.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s