Jupiter News

Jupiter, in pastel colors because the observation was taken in near-infrared light, experiences a rare alignment of three of its large moons; Io, Ganymede, and Callisto.

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Jupiter's Dynamic Atmosphere

    Where Did You Get Those Stripes?

    The most obvious features on Jupiter are the alternating bands of white and colored clouds, zones and belts. As of yet, no one knows what gives the clouds the colors they have, but scientists have theories on why the stripes exist.

    Two view of Jupiter's atmospheric clouds one from March 25, 2008 and the right photo from June 5, 2008.Jupiter's turbulent clouds are always changing as they encounter atmospheric disturbances while sweeping around the planet at hundreds of miles per hour. Notice in these Hubble Space Telescope images the changes in the shape and color of Jupiter's clouds near the equator.

    Analysis of data at many wavelengths shows that the white regions have higher thicker, clouds than the redder regions. This may mean there is active cloud formation in those regions, producing fresh white clouds. The clouds in the reddish brown "belts" are deeper, covered by thick smog-like haze.

    The left image shows Jupiter in infrared light, the right image shows it as visible light.As seen in the infrared and visible images above, two continent-sized storms erupted in Jupiter's atmosphere in March 2007.
    Internal heat drives Jupiter storms.

    These belts and zones are also lined up with Jupiter's strong wind field, which may drive the cloud formation. The winds alternate from eastward to westward with latitude and can top 150 m/s (325 mph). An interesting aspect is that the winds are extraordinarily constant: the wind speed at a given latitude varies very little over time. Scientists are still studying what drives the winds and why they are so constant, even as massive changes occur in cloud color and structure.

    Photo of Jupiter with the wind velocities superimposed. The vertical black line equals zero wind speed. The wind velocity measurements on Jupiter have been added to
    this image of the planet. The vertical black line equals zero wind speed.
    The highest velocities exceed 150m/s (~325mpg).

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