The first thing that catches the eye when looking at Jupiter are the wide and narrow multi-colored belts, which consist of more or less disordered masses. At the intersection of these different belts there are numerous eddies and spots, the largest and most famous of which is of course the Great Red Spot, which is a powerful anticyclone that has been blowing in the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere for several centuries. It should be noted here that the “big” moniker is justified, after all, our entire planet could easily fit into this spot.
Although the planet has already had several close observers, such as the Galileo spacecraft or the Juno spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter, some structures in its atmosphere have only now been observed using the James Webb Space Telescope located far away. 1.5 million kilometers. Land.
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Jet winds It is not strange for anyone dealing with any atmosphere. Such strong winds also occur in the Earth’s atmosphere (they are often used by passenger aircraft to move faster from one place on the Earth’s surface to another). Similar jet winds have been observed in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere near the planet’s equator.
The wind itself is not easily seen in the planet’s atmosphere as a dark speck against the background of bright surroundings. Although they are not “visually attractive”, they contain very valuable information about how individual layers of the atmosphere interact with each other.
The jet wind, observed by James Webb, extends 4,800 kilometers above the upper cloud layer. Scientists admit that this discovery completely surprised them. However, until now, they had only been able to observe the haze above the planet’s atmosphere, and now they could see clear structures that could be tracked almost directly.
To make this discovery, scientists used data collected in July 2022 using the NIRCam camera, which monitors the universe in the near-infrared range. As part of the observing session, the James Webb Telescope took images of Jupiter every ten hours through four different filters, allowing it to see fine details at different altitudes in the planet’s atmosphere.
Thanks to his near-infrared observation ability, James Webb was able to see structures located at altitudes of 25 to 50 kilometers above the cloud tops. It was here that the fine structures of the previously bright haze were observed for the first time.
Analysis of the images showed that the jet winds blowing over the equator move at a speed of approximately 515 kilometers per hour and reach a maximum speed of about 40 kilometers above the tops of the clouds.
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Thanks to the fact that the Hubble Space Telescope observed the same place a day after observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists were able to determine the state of the clouds located forty kilometers below. This, in turn, made it possible to approximately determine the place where wind shear occurs, that is, the place where the speed of the masses increases significantly. Therefore, we can say that scientists have created a three-dimensional map of the structure of storm clouds in the upper layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere
However, scientists are now awaiting further observations of Jupiter with the help of James Webb. The purpose of these observations is to determine changes in the speed and height of jet winds over time.
Scientists expect the newly discovered jet winds to change within the next 2-4 years. It all depends on whether it is in any way connected with the oscillatory changes that regularly occur in the planet’s stratosphere. However, it will take several years to determine this.
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