Something strange is happening in Jupiter’s atmosphere, a new study has revealed.
Forty years’ worth of measurements Jupiter’s atmosphere from spacecraft and ground-based telescopes have revealed strange weather patterns on the solar system’s largest planet, including hot and cold spells throughout its long year (equivalent to 12 Earth years). But Jupiter does not undergo seasonal changes Earth does.
On Earth, the weather transitions between winter, spring, summer, and fall are a result of the tilt of the planet’s axis to the plane in which it orbits Sun. This 23-degree tilt ensures that different parts of the earth receive different amounts of sunlight throughout the year. but JupiterThe axis of is tilted just 3 degrees to the giant planet’s orbital plane, meaning that the amount of sun’s rays reaching different parts of Jupiter’s surface varies little during its long year. Still, the new study found periodic temperature fluctuations around the planet’s cloud-covered globe.
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“We’ve now solved part of the puzzle, which is that the atmosphere shows these natural cycles,” Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer at the University of Leicester in the UK and a co-author of the new article, told NASA expression (opens in new tab). “To understand what drives these patterns and why they occur on these particular timescales, we need to investigate both above and below the cloud layers.”
The team has found evidence that these unusual seasons may have something to do with a phenomenon known as teleconnection. Teleconnection describes periodic changes in aspects of a planet’s atmospheric system occurring simultaneously in parts of the Earth that appear unconnected and may be thousands of miles or kilometers apart.
Teleconnection was observed in earth 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 western Pacific trade winds correspond to changes in precipitation over much of North America. corresponding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In the new research, the scientists found that on Jupiter, as temperatures rise at certain latitudes in the northern hemisphere, the same latitudes in the southern hemisphere cool almost like a perfect mirror image.
“That was the most surprising thing 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 the temperature variations 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 impact on the weather in another region, with patterns of variability appearing to be ‘tele-connected’ over large distances through the atmosphere.”
The measurements also showed that as temperatures rise in the stratosphere, the upper layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere, they fall in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere where weather events occur, including Jupiter’s powerful storms.
The study included data from 1978 collected by some of the best ground-based telescopes, including the Very large telescope in Chile, NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility and the Subaru Telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii. Researchers also used data from spacecraft such as deep space Voyager probeswhich flew past Jupiter in 1979, and the Cassini missionwhich flew by Jupiter in 2001 on its way to explore Saturn.
“Measuring these temperature changes and periods over time is a step towards a complete Jupiter weather forecast if we can connect cause and effect in Jupiter’s atmosphere,” Fletcher said in the statement. “And the even bigger question is whether we can one day extend this to other giant planets to see if similar patterns emerge.”
Previously, scientists knew that Jupiter’s atmosphere has colder regions that appear in lighter colors and warmer regions that appear as brownish bands. The new study, which covers a period of three Jupiter years, shows for the first time how these patterns change over longer periods of time.
The study (opens in new tab) was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday (December 19).