Mystery of Jupiter's strange colored bands finally solved

A new study sheds light on the cause of Jupiter's unique colored bands.
By Tyler MacDonald | Aug 14, 2018
Thanks to data from NASA's Juno probe, scientists believe that they have finally discovered why Jupiter'sdistinctive colored bandsact the way that they do. In particular, the team found that the colorful ammonia clouds that create the bands (which are visible even from modest Earth telescopes) only go about 3,000 kilometers before they terminate.

"Scientists have long debated how deep the jet streams reach beneath the surfaces of Jupiter and other gas giants, and why they do not appear in the sun's interior," said lead researcher Navid Constantinou of the Australian National University.

The new paper by Constantinou and his partner Jeffrey Parker suggests a new theory for this phenomenon.

"Scientists understand that at about 3,000 km below Jupiter's clouds, the pressure is so high that electrons can get loose from the molecules of hydrogen and helium and start to move around freely, creating electric and magnetic fields,"Constantinou said.

The team created a mathematical model to predict the location that aligns with a magnetic field strength high enough to terminate the jet streams.

The team hopes that by studying Jupiter, we can continue to learn more about Earth's climate. Just like Jupiter, our planet also has jet streams that influence its weather. But unlike the simple travel patterns of Jupiter, Earth's jet streams are slowed and obstructed by mountains and continents.

"By studying Jupiter, not only do we unravel the mysteries in the interior of the gas giant, but we can also use Jupiter as a laboratory for studying how atmospheric flows work in general," Parker said.

The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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