NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has detected a high-speed jet stream passing over Jupiter’s equator. This phenomenon moves at a speed of about 515 km/hour, which is twice the wind speed of a Category 5 hurricane, which is the strongest here on Earth.
An article about the discovery was published on October 19 in the magazine Nature astronomy. The jet stream extends more than 4,800 kilometers above Jupiter’s equator, or about 40 kilometers above the main cloud layers.
Although this stream is not as visually clear as the Great Red Spot, a massive storm on Jupiter, it provides a stunning view of how the planet’s atmospheric layers interact with each other and how Webb is able to track these features.
“What we always saw as a hazy haze in Jupiter’s atmosphere now appears as sharp features that we can follow alongside the planet’s rapid rotation,” says Ricardo Hueso, of the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, and lead author of the study. , In the current situation.
The discovery in question was made using data captured by a near-infrared webcam (NIRCam) in July 2022. The telescope looked deeper into the near-infrared than before, allowing it to observe layers of the atmosphere at higher altitudes, between 25 and 50 how much. Above Jupiter’s cloud tops.
In the near infrared, high-altitude haze usually appears blurry, with enhanced brightness over the equatorial region. However, the James Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope in history, revealed much smaller details.
“While many ground-based telescopes, spacecraft such as NASA’s Juno and Cassini, and the Hubble Space Telescope have observed the ever-changing weather patterns of the Jovian system, Webb has already made new discoveries about Jupiter’s rings, satellites, and atmosphere.” Points out Imke De Pater, an astronomer and one of the leaders of the Early Science Release programme, which is designed to take images of Jupiter every 10 hours (which corresponds to one day on the planet).
Scientists compared the winds observed by Webb at high altitudes with those observed by Hubble in deeper layers. Thus, it was possible to measure how quickly these winds change with height.
“We already knew that the different wavelength ranges of Webb and Hubble would reveal the 3D structure of storm clouds, but we were also able to use the timing of the data to see how quickly storms develop,” explains Michael Wong of the University of California, California. Berkeley, who led the associated Hubble observations.
Researchers are awaiting additional observations of Jupiter by Webb to determine whether the speed and height of the jet stream are changing over time. If there is a connection between this phenomenon and the oscillatory pattern of the planet’s stratosphere, this current could change significantly within the next 2 to 4 years, as predicted by Lee Fletcher, a member of the team of scientists, from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
“It’s amazing to me that after years of tracking Jupiter’s clouds and winds from countless observatories, we still have so much more to learn about the planet,” Fletcher says.
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