Study of Jupiter’s Polar Winds or “Jets”

jupiter, planet, big red spot

Scientists were able to measure winds in Jupiter’s stratosphere directly for the first time in history unveiling astonishing results. Each planet has it’s own unique conditions. Likewise, Jupiter is known to be the home to some of the stormiest systems. Jupiter’s winds in the lower atmosphere has been tracked using red and white clouds of gas. Strong winds create vibrant auroras at it’s poles higher up in the planet’s upper atmosphere. Stratosphere lies within these Thermosphere and Troposphere. A comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter resulting in the creation of new molecules in it’s stratosphere, nearly three decades ago. Recently, a team of astronomers were able to track one of these molecules, hydrogen cyanide using the high-precision antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array or ALMA. While moving in the winds of Jupiter’s stratosphere, the frequency of the radiation of the molecules slightly changes. This change in a wave’s frequency depending on if the molecule is moving closer to, or farther away from the observer is called the Doppler effect.

This assists in measuring tiny changes in the frequency of radiation emitted by the molecules. Scientists measured the speed of the stratospheric “jets”(narrow bands of wind in the atmosphere) on Jupiter’s poles and equator directly under just 30 minutes of observation. According to the past research, the upper-atmospheric winds at Jupiter’s poles would likely slow down and completely disappear before getting to the stratosphere.

Scientists found jets with speeds of up to 400 meters per second which is more than twice the maximum speeds in Jupiter’s biggest storm, the Great Red Spot. These wind patterns at Jupiter’s poles could act as a massive vortex, four times the diameter of Earth and 900km tall, making it one of the most uniquely powerful weather phenomena in our entire solar system.

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