Thunderstorms on Jupiter are so strong that they create ammonia-rich hail known as “mushballs” that may fall from the sky.
New observations of Jupiter from NASA’s Juno spacecraft could not only drastically change our understanding of the gas giant, but also of giant planet atmospheres in general, which are largely made of gas and are subject to much higher pressures than what we are familiar with on Earth.
Thunderstorms on Jupiter and Earth do have one thing in common: these natural phenomena move water about in the atmospheres of both planets. On Jupiter, the thunderstorms are thought to form about 31 miles (50 km) below the visible bands and storms on the planet, where temperatures are close to the freezing point of water. Some of these storms are so powerful that they whisk crystal water-ice into the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Related: In photos: Juno’s amazing views of Jupiter
Researchers released their work in three papers: two papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (available here and here) as well as a paper in Nature. Briefly, the three papers suggest the following about storms in Jupiter’s atmosphere:
Juno arrived at Jupiter almost exactly four years ago, on July 4, 2016, to better understand the origin and evolution of the planet. Juno’s findings not only inform our understanding of solar system planets but also gas giant exoplanets, especially those of a similar size and formation history to planets in our solar system.
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