The Mapping Of Jupiter
Astronomers have now been able to observe the wavelengths of radio waves coming through Jupiter’s atmosphere, allowing them to gather enough detail to map the ammonia flows that lay beneath.
A team, led by astronomer Imke de Pater from the University of California, Berkeley are working with the Very Large Array, radio telescope located in New Mexico to penetrate roughly 60 miles into the planet’s atmosphere.
Team member Robert Sault, from the University of Melbourne in Australia explained “Jupiter’s rotation once every 10 hours usually blurs radio maps, because these maps take many hours to observe, but we have developed a technique to prevent this and so avoid confusing together the upwelling and down welling ammonia flows, which had led to the earlier underestimate.”
De Pater himself said “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. These maps clearly show hot spots – areas that appear brighter through the telescope – where ammonia levels are more active, which suggests that these areas may play a role in creating the cloud formations that are commonly seen on the planet’s outer atmosphere.”
Astronomers hope this map will aid in helping to understand more about Jupiter’s atmosphere in the future, and their new techniques will hopefully allow them to dig even deeper into some of the most interesting features the planet has to offer including the Great Red Spot – a storm that has been raging for the last 400 years.
The team’s study comes only a month before NASA’s Juno spacecraft is set to arrive at the gas giant where it will carry out a series of experiments to hopefully provide researchers back on Earth with new details about Jupiter’s composition, atmosphere and gravitational fields and the team’s findings have been published in the journal Science.