Some of the most extreme weather in the Solar System just got stranger.
- The Juno space probe orbiting Jupiter has observed lightning at impossibly high points in the Jovian atmosphere.
- The findings, combined with other atmopsheric data, led to the creation of a new model of the atmosphere.
- The findings answer a few questions about Jupiter, but create many more.
A NASA designed graphic demonstrating the weather systems theorized to create "mushballs." The liquid water and ammonia rises in the storm clouds until they reach points where the extremely low temperatures cause them to freeze. Freezing into semi-solid "mushballs" causes them to fall where they redistribute ammonia throughout the lower atmosphere.
How can we possibly know all of this?<p>Juno relies on several pieces of equipment. The most relevant in this case is the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_Radiometer_(Juno)" target="_blank">microwave radiometer</a>. This device uses microwaves to measure the Jovian atmosphere's composition. When microwaves hit water or ammonia particles, they begin to heat up. By hitting the planet with microwaves and then looking for changes in the particles' observed temperature, the probe can determine what chemicals are present.</p><p>The findings of these studies demonstrate that Jupiter's atmosphere is more complicated than previously thought. Given how we already knew about the storms larger than <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Red_Spot" target="_blank">Earth</a>, temperatures that swing between extremes in different layers of the atmosphere, and winds that blow at 100 meters per <a href="http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~showman/publications/ingersolletal-2004.pdf" target="_blank">second</a>, that is saying something.</p>
This exoplanet is 10 times hotter than any world we measured and shaped like a football.
- Astronomers study the exoplanet planet WASP-121b that's known as a "hot Jupiter."
- The planet is so hot, metals like iron and magnesium stream off its surface.
- The find is the latest accomplishment using the Hubble Space Telescope.
More on the accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8af9b91e77a1f653b2a5ffbcb818a62f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-nNiULl5_2k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.
- Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
- Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
- Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Modeling history<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMxNDk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODc4NjA3N30.koGt1vUoN2VSOsRScJ_B8UnRCZK4LQcFYG0xUbUWlTs/img.jpg?width=980" id="839f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="19bf62e4b6679f27b3942fc59c549844" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Jupiter, right in the middle of everything.
(Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock)<p>The model that lands Jupiter where it is today, along with its thousand of Trojans, begins four times further away from the Sun than Jupiter currently orbits, just inside of Uranus' orbit. Jupiter first took form about 4.5 billion years back as an icy planetary seedling, an ice asteroid, no bigger than Earth. Somewhere between two and three million years later, the future giant began spiraling slowly inward toward the Sun, pulled by gases circulating throughout the solar system. It took about 700,000 years to get where it is now. Along the way, before it developed its gaseous atmosphere and massive size, Jupiter's gravity pulled the Trojans in — the researchers expect Jupiter's core to be composed of materials similar to the Trojans. They're believed to be rich with <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216313410" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">dark carbon compounds</a>, and likely rich in water and other volatile materials beneath an outer layer of dust.</p>
Lucy in the sky with Trojans<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMxNDk5My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTExMjA4MH0.Pk0uf75_KhddEEadiTW1DbSRYXL_DbD_tjY1y27ED4o/img.gif?width=980" id="d5406" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ef4cb87da4761b500f6f2b935c5a3be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Trojan clusters held in place by the Sun and Jupiter
(Astronomical Institute of CAS/Petr Scheirich)<p>In October 2021, NASA plans to launch its <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/lucy-the-first-mission-to-jupiter-s-trojans" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">Lucy mission</a> to study the Trojans. It's believed that they're very old time capsules from the universe of four billion years ago. The craft will study seven of them: one from the solar system's <a href="http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/m/main+asteroid+belt" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">main asteroid belt</a>, and the remaining six from the clusters leading and following Jupiter in its orbit.</p><p>Those two Trojan groups are held in place at stable <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank" data-vivaldi-spatnav-clickable="1">LaGrange</a> points by the combined gravitation pull of the Sun and Jupiter acting together as a single centrifugal force acting upon them.</p><p>NASA has high hopes for the mission as chance to get a closeup look at the type of materials from which our planetary bodies formed.</p><p>Meanwhile, Jupiter's seeming a little bit less mysterious now, at least in terms of its origin. It may also be that ice giants Uranus and Neptune, as well as Saturn, have a similar history.</p>
Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="IqKdqr4J" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="069dd79f6cedfe8a78bebd6de0453261"> <div id="botr_IqKdqr4J_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/IqKdqr4J-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/IqKdqr4J-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/IqKdqr4J-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> None
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