Jupiter’s atmosphere as we have never seen it before

(CNN) – Images taken from two different telescopes show Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, in a new light.

The Northern Gemini Telescope in Hawaii and the Hubble Space Telescope captured Jupiter in visible, infrared and ultraviolet light, and revealed the astonishing features of the gas giant’s atmosphere in detail. These include superstorms, colossal tornadoes, and of course the Great Red Spot, a storm that has lasted for centuries in Jupiter’s atmosphere so large that it can swallow up Earth.

This is multi-wavelength astronomy at work. Observing a planet through different wavelengths of light can reveal aspects and features that would otherwise be invisible. Their comparison allows for a better understanding of the gas giant, its atmosphere, particles and fog.

“Jimene’s northern observations are made possible by the telescope’s position within the Monaki Science Reserve, located near the summit of Monakia,” said Mike Wong, team leader and planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “We are grateful for the privilege of observing Ka’awela (Jupiter) from a unique place for both its astronomical quality and cultural significance.”

See what a giant planet looks like 0:52

Close-infrared photographer Gemini North provided the wavelength infrared image of Jupiter, while Hubble did a dual mission using the Wide Field Camera 3 for imaging in visible light and ultraviolet rays.

The three photos were taken at the same time on January 11, 2017 for comparison.

In all three images, Jupiter looks very different. The Great Red Spot nearly disappears at infrared wavelengths, but the dark region inside a storm appears larger than the visible light image. This is because the different wavelengths of light exhibit various structures within a storm.

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The combination of visible light images of the storm obtained by Hubble with infrared observations from Gemini showed that the dark features are holes in the cloud layer. In visible light, these look dark. But in thermal infrared, the researchers were able to observe that Jupiter’s heat is seeping into space through the holes. Usually, this process is blocked by the massive clouds of Jupiter.

See our comparison of the bright infrared image of Jupiter with the softer visible light image in the slider below.


In the infrared, the warm layers of Jupiter beneath the clouds appear to shine through the gaps in the clouds.

Wong compared the infrared image of Jupiter to the pumpkin lantern he is decorating with himself this Halloween.

Meanwhile, planet Earth’s famous cloud bands are visible at all three wavelengths.

Red Spot Jr. Dubbed Oval BA by scientists, is a storm just below the Great Red Spot seen in visible and ultraviolet images. It was formed from the merger of Three Storms in the year 2000.

What differences do you notice in the UV and visible light image?

La Mancha Roja Jr. To white in recent years. This is the original color of the spot before it turned red in 2006. But the core of this storm is dark red, which may indicate that the Junior Red Spot will turn red again in the future, like the Great Red Spot.

Above this turbulent region in the visual image, there is also a superstorm that looks like a circular white streak.

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Another image appears in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere in an infrared image. This particular line is thought to be a cyclonic vortex, or series of vortices, stretching approximately 45,000 miles from east to west. In visible light, it appears dark brown. When NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft photographed Jupiter in 1979, scientists called these features “brown sandals.” These swirls almost disappear in ultraviolet light.

Underneath are large hotspots visible in the infrared image.

Jupiter is stormy

Taken together, the three different perspectives help scientists understand the interesting clouds of Jupiter in the layers of its atmosphere.

The images can also be compared to observations made by the Juno mission, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016.

The planet is known for its tremendous storms, but trying to look inland requires the collective action of Juno spacecraft, Hubble and Gemini North. The collective observations of this dream team produced wonderful images and revealed what is happening within the giant and continuous storms of Jupiter.

Jupiter’s storms are brutal. Storm clouds can extend 40 miles from base to summit, which is equivalent to five times the height of storm clouds on Earth. Jupiter’s lightning strikes are also very powerful, because they triple the energy of the so-called “super rays”, which are the strongest on Earth.

Wong and his team used the collected data to understand how thunderstorms form on Jupiter, to explore holes in the clouds of the Great Red Spot, and to look at the deep layers of the planet’s atmosphere that are not normally seen.

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“Juno has detected a lot of lightning strikes at the radio wavelengths associated with tornadoes,” said Wong. “We interpret the data to show that when there is an active convection, which generates lightning, this specific situation occurs where there are three types of clouds mixed in the same place: the really tall convex constellations, and the gaps in that Gemini detects a bright emission and clouds in the deep sea .

Lightning is more likely to occur in deep water clouds, due to moist convection. Jupiter’s lightning strikes and large storms form in and around the large convection cells above the deep clouds.

NASA reveals the origin of the auroras on Jupiter 0:41

Although several robotic space missions have visited Jupiter, researchers still have many questions about how this giant gas was formed and the processes occurring on the planet.

Support from Hubble and Gemini during Juno’s mission also provides researchers with a window into Jupiter’s climate in general, such as wind patterns, atmospheric waves, and hurricanes, as well as its gases and heat.

This dataset is also the basis for future research that Wong is working on to determine how and why the Great Red Spot It appears to be shrinking.

Although scientists don’t know the cause, this reduction in storm size has been occurring since astronomers began monitoring it and recording measurements as early as 1930.

The gas giant has a constantly moving atmosphere, so long-term observation allows us to follow changes in Jupiter over time. Scientists are keen to know what surprises Jupiter has in store for the future.

Lovell Loxley

"Alcohol buff. Troublemaker. Introvert. Student. Social media lover. Web ninja. Bacon fan. Reader."

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