Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jupiter Surprises

Many scientists had also supposed that Jupiter’s beautiful bands were really only skin-deep, and that there was little structure deeper within the planet. That turned out to be off, too.

The Juno Microwave Radiometer, which probed hundreds of kilometers beneath the surface, found a remarkable level of organization — including a strange band of ammonia sitting right above the equator that extends deep into the planet. Just how deep remains unclear.

“What’s always been assumed is that as soon as we drop below the cloud tops where the sunlight can’t get to, that Jupiter inside would be kind of boring and all uniform and everything would be mixed together and it wouldn’t matter where you looked, it would all look the same,” Bolton said. “It turns out it’s exactly the opposite.”

In fact, this band of ammonia seems to have dynamics somewhat reminiscent of an atmospheric circulation pattern on Earth known as a Hadley Cell — even though that pattern requires a surface like Earth’s land or oceans to work. Jupiter has no such known surfaces, as far as researchers know.

“You have to question now whether what we’re seeing now is a general feature of all planetary atmospheres, or is it just a coincidence?” Bolton said. “Or does this equatorial band go so deep that it gets to some kind of transition region really far down in Jupiter?”

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