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Israeli Scientists Discover that Jupiter's Stripes Are Thicker than Previously Thought

10 March 2018

"Jupiter's atmosphere is many times greater than anything we have seen before", said Kaspi, who analyzed measurements from NASA's Juno spacecraft to reveal that the planet's stripes extend to a depth of about 3,000 km.

The researchers found powerful wind belts that extend to a depth of about 3000 kilometers - much deeper than previously thought - and have lasted hundreds of years at least.

Data from NASA's Juno spacecraft, orbiting the solar system's largest planet since 2016, is providing researchers with what they called unprecedented insight into Jupiter's internal dynamics and structure. Among the measurements Juno beams back to Earth are those of the planet's gravity field. And since the flybys are in different orbits each time, they can sample the gravitational field of different parts of the planet.

"Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago", said Yohai Kaspi, Juno's co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

Juno's data showed a small but significant asymmetry between the gravitational field of Jupiter's northern and southern hemispheres, driven by the enormous jet streams.

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The stripy bands on Jupiter are made from roaring winds that penetrate deep below its surface and circle round the entire planet.

The scientists looked for anomalies - measurements that show the planet deviating from a flawless sphere.

These new photos help to settle some ongoing debates, most notably, according to National Geographic, "whether the patterns painted on the surface are merely superficial, or reflect the work of processes churning away inside the planet".

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is just a third of the way through its daring adventure, and it has already revolutionized our knowledge of the gas giant.

However, assumptions changed and Kaspi calculated that an imbalance due to the winds in the north and the south should indeed produce a measurable gravitational signal. When the results from Juno arrived, the measurement revealed large differences in the gravity field between north and south. In addition to determining the depth, Kaspi and Galanti also developed a method to determine precisely how those flows change with depth.

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The calculations also show that Jupiter's atmosphere makes up 1% of its total mass.

Jupiter, the fifth planet from the sun, dwarfs the solar system's other planets, measuring about 89,000 miles (143,000 km) in diameter at its equator, compared with Earth's diameter of about 8,000 miles (12,750 km).

The first of the three Nature papers, led by Prof. Tristan Guillot of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, looks below the atmosphere, suggesting that beneath the level of the winds, the gas rotates more or less as a single body, nearly as if it were a solid.

Scientists have discovered a lot of new pictures thanks to Juno.

An illustration depicting the US space agency's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot. "There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system". "Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend".

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Israeli Scientists Discover that Jupiter's Stripes Are Thicker than Previously Thought