An international team of astronomers measured the winds of Jupiter’s middle atmosphere for the first time and revealed the release of some tremendous energy near its poles, at speeds of up to 1,450 kilometers per hour, as reported on Thursday (03.18.2021) in a statement issued by the European Southern Observatory ( ESO).
“These winds can represent a unique monster in our solar system,” explained the researchers, who used ESO facilities in Atacama (northern Chile).
It is impossible to measure wind speed in Jupiter’s stratosphere using cloud-tracking technology, due to the absence of clouds in this part of the atmosphere.
For this reason, astronomers on the mission tracked down one of the particles that arose from the collision between comet Shoemaker Levi 9 and the gas giant in 1994, the atoms that have been moving with the wind since then.
“The most impressive result is the presence of strong winds, at speeds of up to 400 meters per second, under the aurora near the poles,” said the director of the mission, Thibault Cavalli.
These wind speeds, which are equivalent to about 1,450 kilometers per hour, are more than twice the maximum storm speeds reached in the Great Red Spot of Jupiter and more than three times the wind speeds measured in the most powerful hurricanes on Earth.
“Our discovery indicates that these wind jets can behave like a giant vortex four times the diameter of the Earth and a height of about 900 km,” said co-author Bilal Panamahi.
Astronomers were aware of strong winds near Jupiter’s poles, but in a much higher portion of the atmosphere, hundreds of kilometers above the focus of the new study.
These results open a new window for studying the regions of Jupiter that have auroras, and they also paved the way for similar but more comprehensive measurements using Jupiter’s Ice Moon Explorer (Jupiter’s Ice Moon Explorer) from the European Space Agency, which is expected to launch into space next year.
JU (efe, aanda.org, eurekalert.org, eso.org)