The violent storm on Jupiter is more strange than we thought

    Artistic depiction of lightning storms on Jupiter, using data obtained by NASA's Juno mission.

Artistic depiction of lightning storms on Jupiter, using data obtained by NASA’s Juno mission.
The image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Ichstad

Lightning and hail exist on Jupiter, but they are very different than those that are familiar to us on Earth, as new research suggests.

The glow of lightning on Jupiter does not originate from water clouds like on Earth, but from clouds filled with both water and ammonia according to the new water. The research Published in Nature this week.

In related studyPublished in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, scientists explain how these same thunderstorms are capable of producing unpredictable weather as storms, or “mushrooms” in the researchers’ paradigm. These dirty abuses fall into the giant intestines of gas, allowing ammonia to reach its deepest layers.

Planetary scientists have known lightning bolts on Jupiter for decades, they speculate that they were caused by similar conditions on Earth, which are closely related to water clouds and freezing at temperature. However, for this to work, these storms would have to form at altitudes ranging from 28 to 40 miles (45 to 65 kilometers) below Jupiter’s cloud top. The trouble is, observations made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft point to the presence of small and shallow flashes, which appeared much higher in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

In a new nature study, planetary scientist Heidi Baker of the California Institute of Technology, along with colleagues, presented a plausible explanation for this apparent anomaly: Toss water-ice crystals at higher atmospheric layers to higher layers, some 16 miles apart But 25 km above the gas giant water cloud). Ice crystals are exposed to ammonia at this high altitude, resulting in a mixture of ammonia-water. At this stage, the temperature reaches -126 ° F (-88 ° C), but ammonia melts the incoming ice.

“At these altitudes, ammonia acts like an antifreeze, reducing the melting point of water ice and allowing the formation of a cloud with ammonia-water liquid,” explained Baker at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Press release. “In this new state, falling droplets of ammonia-water liquid can hit water ice crystals and electrify clouds. This was a big surprise, because ammonia-water clouds do not exist on Earth. “

Sufficiently convenient, this explanation seems to solve another mystery with Jupiter: uneven intervals of missing ammonia. Scientists have previously discovered that absent ammonia is caused by rain, in which a wet mixture of ammonia and water goes down to deeper levels. However, the calculation of this scenario did not work, as the envisaged rain would not be able to fall sufficiently to match the observations made by Juno’s microwave radiometer, which detected less ammonia.

Graphic depicting shallow lightning on Jupiter and the process of growth of mushroom hail.

Graphic illustrating shallow lightning on Jupiter and the growth process of mushroom hail.
The image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / CNRS

A new explanation, as described in the new Journal of Geophysical Research study, suggests that scientists were on the right track. But instead of invoking rain as the cause, the new paper co-written by Baker contains a different type of rain: hail.

Referred to by researchers as “mushroomballs”, these hail is made from water and ammonia. Similar to the way hail storms form in the Earth’s atmosphere, mooseballs begin to form small seeds that grow in size as they are separated by violent winds. Eventually, these flushed orbs become very heavy and fall into the deeper layers below, which evaporate in warmer temperatures.

“As it turned out, ammonia is not really missing; It is only taken down while in disguise, mixed with water and locked on its own, ”Scott Bolton, Juno PI at San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute, told the JPL press release.

Therefore, in addition to showing where the missing ammonia went, the new theory also explains the uneven distribution of missing ammonia in the Jovian environment.

It is great when one scientific discovery leads to another, which has happened here. Some scientific efforts may be exaggerated or indulging, but as these two papers show, we do not always know where they are taking us.


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