Mystery of Jupiter’s Colored Bands Solved | National News
Scientists believe they may have solved the mystery behind Jupiter’s distinctive colored bands and why they behave the way they do.
Thanks to measurements taken by Juno, the NASA probe that arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, scientists discovered that the colorful bands of ammonia clouds visible even from modest telescopes on Earth actually only go approximately 3,000 kilometers – about 5 percent of Jupiter’s radius at the equator– then terminate abruptly.
“Scientists have long debated how deep the jet streams reach beneath the surfaces of Jupiter and other gas giants, and why they do not appear in the sun’s interior,” lead researcher Navid Constantinou of the Australian National University told News Corp Australia.
In new research published in The Astrophysical Journal on Thursday, Constantinou and his research partner, Jeffrey Parker, of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in San Diego, put forward a new theory that explains why that might be.
“Scientists understand that at about 3,000 km below Jupiter’s clouds, the pressure is so high that electrons can get loose from the molecules of hydrogen and helium and start to move around freely, creating electric and magnetic fields,” Constantinou explains in The Conversation.
Constantinou and Parker designed a mathematical model that can predict the point at which the magnetic field is strong enough to shut down the jet streams.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is gaseous and is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.
Earth also has jet streams that shape the planet’s weather, but unlike Jupiter’s simpler patterns, continents and mountains slow and obstruct jet streams’ path.
Researchers hope Jupiter can help reveal more about climate on Earth.
“By studying Jupiter, not only do we unravel the mysteries in the interior of the gas giant, but we can also use Jupiter as a laboratory for studying how atmospheric flows work in general,” Parker said.