Storms on Jupiter are messing with the planet’s colorful bands, stunning images show

For the first time ever, radio wave images made it possible for scientists to look deep into the atmospheric conditions below Jupiter’s colorful ammonia clouds after an “energetic eruption” took place 50 kilometers (31 miles) beneath the surface. The eruptions are similar to Earth’s thunderstorms and can include lightning.

The radio wave image was created using data from the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) telescope group, which allowed researchers to make a “three-dimensional map of the distribution of ammonia gas below the clouds,” Imke de Pater from the University of California, Berkeley explained.

The images show how Jupiter’s weather systems evolve and suggest storms are disrupting the colorful bands on the layer of the planet’s surface, and may even change their color. 

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They also revealed high levels of ammonia gas, adding weight to the theory that the lightning eruptions are triggered by moist convection currents at water clouds deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere. These eruptions can push ammonia gas up above the clouds to the coldest part of the atmosphere, where they create visible white plumes as they freeze. 

“If these plumes are vigorous and continue to have convective events, they may disturb one of these entire bands over time, though it may take a few months,” de Pater added.

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