Scientists have always been interested to find out as many details as possible regarding every planet in our solar system. One of their most pressing questions is about whether or not Jupiter’s stripes are just a surface phenomenon or if they are an important layer of the planet.
The research process
In order to find this out professor Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute decided to start his research by referring to the measurements taken by NASA’s Juno. These showed that what we call stripes are actually belts of very strong winds that stretch out for almost 3000 kilometers. The three papers on this issue will be published in the science journal Nature but it looks like they have already captures scientists’ attention because they show previous estimates were significantly smaller and this revolutionizes how they get to look at the planet’s layers.
NASA’s Juno has managed to give researchers the opportunity to see Jupiter’s surface as close as possible. The spacecraft orbits the planet every 53 days so data could be collected regularly.
Some of the measurements that Juno records and sets back to Earth are about the planet’s gravity field, which is done via radio waves. This allows scientists to get a map of the different gravitational levels all around the planet.
Kaspi and Doctor Eli Galanti were interested to analyze this phenomenon way before they had the means to do so. In order to do that they built tools that helped them with their analysis. They found that winds belts that circle around the planet are incredibly strong, stronger than the strongest winds that we have experienced on planet Earth. These winds are so strong and run in a variety of directions that they are responsible for the disruption of the planet’s mass.
They also searched for anomalies that could show the planet not being in the form of a sphere. Kaspi said that they expected these types of anomalies to exist and manifest their selves because Jupiter is, at its core, a giant ball of gas and it is expected for it to be greatly affected by those wind bands that manifest erratically.
When Juno finally started to collect data, the two scientists were shocked to see that there were major differences in the gravity fields on the south and on the north of the planet. This is how the scientists were able to calculate that the winds were 3000 km deep, by looking at these two very different gravitation fields.
These revealed that the atmosphere of Jupiter is about 1% of its mass. In order to put things in perspective for those out there that think that this new data is very small, Kaspi said that this mass was never seen before and that the number is significantly larger than what scientists could ever think of. To paint the picture, Jupiter’s atmosphere’s mass is about three times the mass of Earth, if Earth was moving around at great speed.
Kaspi and Galanti’s work
The work done by these two scientists is going to appear in the second paper out the three that we have previously mentioned. Their paper is focused on the great depths of Jupiter’s atmosphere, a topic that we have talked about at length.
The importance of these papers
These papers are more than important in the field of science because they revolutionize how Jupiter is being seen. The subject is far from being over with as scientist still have a lot of questions that need to be answered. One of the more pressing ones is why is this wind storm getting smaller and smaller in recent years. But that is a question for another time.