Jupiter Radio Map Update: Ammonia Gas Absorbs Planet's Thermal Radio Emissions

First Posted: Jun 07, 2016 06:10 AM EDT

Beneath the clouds of Jupiter are the enormous movement of ammonia gas, according to the latest research. Through an upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, astronomers were able to create the most detailed radio map of the planet's atmosphere that revealed such findings.

The researchers from the University of California, Berkeley measured radio emissions coming from the atmosphere of Jupiter in wavelength bands where the colorful clouds are visible. According to the report, the cloud tops, a predominant unexplored portion where the clouds form,  were seen as deep as 100 km below. Jupiter's thermal radio emissions are also found to be slightly absorbed by the ammonia gas and as noted by the researchers, the amount of ammonia could be determined including its depth.

By analyzing these portions of Jupiter's atmosphere, the astronomers are hoping to have a better understanding of how cloud formation and global circulation are propelled by the planet's powerful internal heat source. Also, it seeks to clarify on the same processes that happen on other big planets in the solar system, including the newly-found giant exoplanets around the distant stars, Sci-News reported.

As explained by the principal author of the study Imke de Pater, astronomy professor at the UC Berkeley, they formed a three-dimensional image of ammonia gas in the atmosphere of Jupiter that reveals downward and upward movements within the violent atmosphere. She stated that the map shows a significant similarity to visible-light pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and amateur astronomers.

In addition, this radio map indicates ammonia-rich gases growing into and establishing the upper cloud layers - an ammonium hydrosulfide cloud with temperature close to 200 degrees Kelvin and an ammonia-ice cloud with approximately 160 degrees Kelvin cold air. These clouds can be detected easily from the Earth through optical telescopes.

Aside from this, the radio map shows ammonia-poor air descending into Jupiter, same as how how dry air drops from above the Earth's cloud layers. Moreover, it suggests that the so-called "hotspots", which emerge brightly in thermal and radio infrared pictures, are  ammonia-poor areas that surround Jupiter like a belt just north of the equator, and that between the hotspots are ammonia-rich upwellings which send ammonia from deeper in the planet,  according to Universe Today.

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