Jupiter‘s images have not been the most precise in astronomy history, but for the first time, astronomers from UC Berkeley produced a detailed map of its atmosphere. There is a surprising discovery in it: Bands and clouds are visible to the naked eye, and they are quite colorful.
The shot was produced using telescopes in New Mexico, and astronomers also measured physics’ factors in the atmosphere. Initially, clouds studied were mostly transparent, but this time, researchers achieved with the telescope a region that was unexplored. This area is about 60 miles below the open clouds, and it ended up being the band where clouds form.
What can we discover with this?
Having this instruments and images of the planet’s atmosphere allows scientists to learn about cloud formation and radio emissions, something that can be translated into the better understanding of a vast field: Global circulation, heat source and chemical composition of astronomic phenomena. Jupiter could be the first assertive reference we have on giant planets in our solar system.
Radio emissions and gasses present in the planet’s surface are the main responsible for the coloring. The interaction between those features allowed scientists identify chemical clues in the clouds, like the presence of ammonia. It is a turbulent atmosphere the one visible in the images.
The radio map also allowed to make some studies on the chemical in the cloud-forming process. Optical telescopes can see the clouds from anywhere on the Earth.
A researcher astronomer for UCLA stated:
“With radio, we can peer through the clouds and see that those hotspots are interleaved with plumes of ammonia rising from deep in the planet, tracing the vertical undulations of an equatorial wave system,” said Michael Wong.
— NASA's Juno Mission (@NASAJuno) June 3, 2016
The detailed map of the atmosphere also revealed vast quantities of ammonia swirls beneath the clouds, and that is probably the cause of the turbulent air. Ammonia is a colorless gas compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, and since 1995 scientists know about its presence in Jupiter. However, these recent findings showed that the amount of ammonia present is larger than expected.
There is a NASA Mission on progress to orbit Jupiter on July, and when that mission is launched, scientists will be able to take a closer look at Jupiter’s atmosphere structure and composition. The spacecraft is called Juno, and it will be equipped with VLA telescopes to capture the most detailed images possible.