Something strange is happening in Jupiter’s atmosphere, a new study has revealed.
Forty years of measures of Jupiter’s atmosphere by spacecraft and ground-based telescopes have revealed strange weather patterns on the largest planet in the solar system, including hot and cold periods during its long year (equivalent to 12 Earth years). But Jupiter does not undergo seasonal changes like Earth Is.
On Earth, weather transitions between winter, spring, summer, and fall result from the tilting of the planet’s axis toward the plane in which it orbits. Sun. This 23 degree tilt causes different parts of the globe to receive varying amounts of sunlight throughout the year. But JupiterJupiter’s axis is tilted towards the giant planet’s orbital plane by just 3 degrees, meaning the amount of sunlight reaching different parts of Jupiter’s surface throughout its long year barely changes. Yet the new study revealed periodic temperature variations occurring around the planet’s cloud-covered globe.
“We have now solved part of the puzzle, which is that the atmosphere shows these natural cycles,” said Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer at the University of Leicester in the UK and co-author of the new paper, in a report by The NASA. statement (opens in a new tab). “To understand what drives these patterns and why they occur on these particular time scales, we need to explore both above and below the cloud layers.”
The team found indications that these non-seasonal seasons might have something to do with a phenomenon known as teleconnection. Teleconnection describes periodic changes in aspects of a planet’s atmospheric system that occur simultaneously in seemingly unconnected parts of the globe that could be thousands of miles or miles apart.
Teleconnection has been observed in earth’s atmosphere since the 19th century, most notably in the famous La Nina – El Nino cycle, also known as the Southern Oscillation. During these events, changes in trade winds from the western Pacific Ocean correspond to changes in precipitation across much of North America, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In the new research, scientists found that on Jupiter, when temperatures rise at specific latitudes in the northern hemisphere, the same latitudes in the southern hemisphere cool down, almost like a perfect mirror image.
“It was most surprising of all,” Glenn Orton, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and lead author of the study, said in the statement.
“We found a link between temperature variation at very distant latitudes,” he said. “It’s similar to a phenomenon we see on Earth, where weather and climate patterns in one region can have a noticeable influence on the weather elsewhere, with the variability patterns seemingly ‘teleconnected’ over great distances across the Earth. atmosphere.”
The measurements also revealed that as temperatures rise in the stratosphere, the upper layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere, they drop in the troposphere, the lowest atmospheric layer, where weather events occur, including powerful thunderstorms. Jupiter.
The study included data from 1978, collected by some of the best ground-based telescopes, including the very large telescope in Chile, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Subaru Telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii. The researchers also used data from spacecraft such as deep space Voyager Probeswhich flew past Jupiter in 1979, and the Mission Cassiniwhich flew past Jupiter in 2001 en route to exploring Saturn.
“Measuring these temperature changes and time periods is a step toward a full Jupiter weather forecast, if we can establish a causal link in Jupiter’s atmosphere,” Fletcher said in the release. “And the even bigger question is if we can ever expand this to other giant planets to see if similar patterns appear.”
Previously, scientists knew that Jupiter’s atmosphere has cooler regions that appear in lighter colors and warmer regions that appear as brownish bands. The new study, which covers a period of three Jovian years, reveals for the first time how these patterns change over longer periods.
The study (opens in a new tab) was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, December 19.