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Mystery of Jupiter's storms uncovered

tech reviews Updated: Jan 25, 2008 13:16 IST

Hindustan Times
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Researchers claim to have uncovered the mystery of the unusual storms on Jupiter and the reaction of the planet's most intense jet stream to them.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's telescope in Hawaii, the international researchers have found that the very bright storms are formed amongst the deepest clouds of water on the planet, rising vigorously and injecting a mixture of ice ammonia and water up to 30 km above the visible clouds.

The storms move with the maximum velocity of the jet, -- more than 600 km per hour -- creating disturbances and generating a stele of turbulence of reddish clouds that circle the whole planet. The team found the brilliant festoons that make up the storms abandoning the jet stream to leeward.

Despite the enormous amount of energy deposited by the storms and the mixture and whirlwinds generated thereby, the jet stream stayed practically still during this perturbation and, when it was over, this stayed robust, despite the event suffered, the researchers noticed.

"We observed how the storm grew quickly from 400 km to 2,000 km in less than 24 hours. Although the regions studied are meteorologically different, everything points to Jupiter's jet streams going very deep and suggests that the internal energy source plays an important role in its generation," the 'ScienceDaily' quoted lead researcher Agustn Snchez-Lavega of University of the Basque Country as saying.

In fact, the comparison of the currently observed phenomenon with the previous cases of 1975 and 1990 reveal surprising similarities and coincidence, although without an explanation for the time being.

The three eruptions had a periodicity of between 15 to 17 years, strange for Jupiter as they do not bear any obvious relationship with the known natural periods of this planet.

"The storms arose at the peak of the jet, where the velocity is maximum, not to the North or to the South and there have always been two storms (not one or more or one less) and, finally, in all cases they move at the same speed.

"If, at some time in the future, we are able to crack this riddle, we will know the mysteries that lie beneath Jupiter's clouds," Snchez-Lavega was quoted as saying.

The atmosphere of the giant gaseous planet of Jupiter, ten times the size of the Earth and where the day lasts only 10 hours, is in a permanent state of agitation.

Atmospheric circulation is dominated by a system of jet streams, alternating in latitude and that distribute their clouds in bright and dark rings parallel to its equator -- all these phenomena being unexplained.

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