Science

Jupiter Becoming Clearer Even Before Juno’s Arrival

The radiation belts around Jupiter and its surface level-clouds limit what ground-based, traditional telescopes can see to explain Jupiter’s appearance and the activity below the clouds. However, in findings shown in the journal Science today, radio-wave mapping has given us our best understanding of what lies near the surface and it “appears” it’s whirling ammonia gases.

Jupiter Becoming Clearer Even Before Juno's Arrival

Jupiter is becoming more interesting even before Juno’s arrival

Using the recently upgraded Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico researchers have given us the best understanding of what gives Jupiter its colorful, marbled appearance as telescopes can’t see it. However, by using the VLA researchers and operators have gotten through those clouds and have now probed 60 miles beneath the top of those pesky clouds. Jupiter’s internal heat source is responsible for moving ammonia and other gases around in swirls to explain the colorful flourishes we see on the surface along with the planet’s spots.

“We in essence created a three-dimensional picture of ammonia gas in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which reveals upward and downward motions within the turbulent atmosphere,” Imke de Pater, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a new study that once again saw its publication in the journal Science today.

Coincidentally, the best understanding of Jupiter’s appearance beneath the clouds comes on the same day that space fiends also received the most detailed pictures of the surface of former planet Pluto.

Using the VLA, the researchers have put together the most detailed radio map of this gas giant. The upper cloud layers that obscure Jupiter’s surface are the result of ammonium-rich gases rising to form this cloud barrier. The swirling gases shown mapped today are comprised of gasses with less ammonia that “live” beneath the heavy cloud layer.

“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,” Michael Wong, also with UC Berkeley, said in his statement.

“We now see fine structure in the 12- to 18-gigahertz band, much like we see in the visible, especially near the Great Red Spot, where we see a lot of little, curly features,” Wong said talking about features that cause spots that show how small the Earth adding, “Those trace really complex upwelling and downwelling images there.”

Juno set for arrival on July 4

Juno, The JUpiter Near-polar Orbiter is part of the New Frontiers project that is on presently in the last days of it’s five-year journey having launched on August 5, 2011.

The orbiter is set to undertake a daring polar orbit in order to study the planet’s magnetic field, gravity field and general composition along with weather patterns and surely a few surprises. Scientists hope to use its anticipated success to get a much clearer understanding of the planet’s origins.

Juno will effectively take over from where the Galileo probe left off after orbiting the planet from 1995-2003.

Researchers look for a much better understanding of Jupiter immediately upon its arrival if it’s able to establish an immediate orbit and, of course, communicate with researchers monitoring its readings.

While we’re also taking July 4th off to celebrate the nation’s independence, expect us to be talking about Jupiter on July 5th. Happy Holidays.