A new radio map of the Jupiter’s atmosphere has revealed the Great Red Spot and other stormy surface features extend 30 to 100 kilometers below the enigmatic surface of the gas giant.
The Very Large Array (VLA), a network of 27 radio telescopes in New Mexico, traced the presence of ammonia in the gas giant to study the circulation systems below the visible cloud tops.
Astronomers were able to peer around 60 miles into the dense cloud layer, allowing the researchers to view movements of ammonia in the thick atmosphere.
“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,” said principal author Imke de Pater of the University of California, Berkeley.
The radio map shows ammonia-rich gases rising into and forming the upper cloud layers, which consist of an ammonium hydrosulfide cloud at a temperature of about minus-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The maps also reveal ammonia-poor air sinking into the planet and a belt of ammonia-poor “hot spots,” which appear bright in radio and infrared images, located north of Jupiter’s equator.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which will begin orbiting Jupiter next month, will hopefully give additional insight on Jupiter’s origin and evolution. The probe launched about five years ago will study the gas giant’s weather and magnetic environment.