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Jupiter's intense ammonia storms confuse the belts of the planet



Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is perhaps best known for its giant Red Dot, a continuous storm that has been observed since 1830. But now new powerful storms are brewing on the gas giant and disrupting them

These storms affect the planet's white and brown belt, creating distortion among the bands that are usually separated. Made of ammonia and water vapor, storms rise through Jupiter's cloud layer and then condense into white pluses

  Jupiter in radio waves with ALMA (above) and visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope (below). The eruption in the Southern Equatorial Belt can be seen in both images. (Credit: ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO] I de Pater et al.; NRAO / AUI NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA / Hubble)

Jupiter in radio waves with ALMA (top) and visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom), Eruption in the southern equatorial belt, it is visible in both images. (Credit: ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO] I de Pater et al.; NRAO / AUI NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA / Hubble)

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"If these loops are vigorous and continue to have convective events, they may disrupt one of these entire strips over time, and may over time several months, "said the study's lead author Imke de Pater. "With these observations, we see a flow in progress and the consequences of the others."

The study, pending publication in the Astronomical Journal, can be found here.

Researchers were able to identify storms using the large millimeter / submillimeter Atacama array (ALMA) as well as the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Our observations of ALMA are the first to show that high concentrations of ammonia gas rise during an energy eruption," added de Pater.

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Usually ammonia clouds are the uppermost thin layers, the finest layers being the same. But because ammonia does not rise higher than the hydrogen and helium that make up the planet's atmosphere, it's difficult to understand what causes these storms, the researchers note.

"We were really fortunate to have this data because it was taken just days after amateur astronomers discovered a bright noise in the Southern Equatorial Belt," de Pater continued. "With ALMA, we watched the entire planet and saw this plume. Because ALMA probes below the cloud layers, we could actually see what's going on under the ammonia clouds."

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