Telescopes and Spacecraft Join Forces to Probe Deep into Jupiter’s Atmosphere
May 8, 2020
Global Korean Post
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini Observatory in Hawaii have teamed up with the Juno spacecraft to probe the mightiest storms in the solar system, taking place more than 500 million miles away on the giant planet Jupiter.
A team of researchers led by Michael Wong at the University of California, Berkeley, and including Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Imke de Pater also of UC Berkeley, are combining multiwavelength observations from Hubble and Gemini with close-up views from Juno’s orbit about the monster planet, gaining new insights into turbulent weather on this distant world.
Jupiter’s constant storms are gigantic compared to those on Earth, with thunderheads reaching 40 miles from base to top — five times taller than typical thunderheads on Earth — and powerful lightning flashes up to three times more energetic than Earth’s largest “superbolts.”
Like lightning on Earth, Jupiter’s lightning bolts act like radio transmitters, sending out radio waves as well as visible light when they flash across the sky.
Every 53 days, Juno races low over the storm systems detecting radio signals known as “sferics” and “whistlers,” which can then be used to map lightning even on the day side of the planet or from deep clouds where flashes are not otherwise visible.
Coinciding with each pass, Hubble and Gemini watch from afar, capturing high-resolution global views of the planet that are key to interpreting Juno’s close-up observations. “Juno’s microwave radiometer probes deep into the planet’s atmosphere by detecting high-frequency radio waves that can penetrate through the thick cloud layers. The data from Hubble and Gemini can tell us how thick the clouds are and how deep we are seeing into the clouds,” Simon explained.