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Home / Science / How a NASA Scientist Searches for Water in Jupiter in the Depths of the Great Red Spot |

How a NASA Scientist Searches for Water in Jupiter in the Depths of the Great Red Spot |



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From NASA // August 31, 2018

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The mysterious planet is greatest in our solar system

ABOUT VIDEO: For centuries scientists have been working to understand the composition of Jupiter. It's no wonder: this mysterious planet is by far the largest in our solar system and chemically closest to the sun. Understanding Jupiter is the key to learning more about how our solar system has formed and even how other solar systems are evolving.

(NASA) – For centuries scientists have been working to understand the composition of Jupiter. It's no wonder: this mysterious planet is by far the largest in our solar system and chemically closest to the sun. Understanding Jupiter is the key to learning more about how our solar system originated, and even how other solar systems evolve.

But astronomers have been haunting a critical question for generations: is there water deep in Jupiter's atmosphere, and if so, how much?

Gordon L. Bjoraker, astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, recently reported in the Astronomical Journal that he and his team have brought the Jovian research community closer to the answer.

Radiating from ground-based telescopes to wavelengths sensitive to thermal radiation from the depths of Jupiter's stubborn storm, the Great Red Spot, they discovered the chemical signature of water over the planet's deepest clouds.

The Pressure of Water Researchers, combined with their measurements of another oxygen-containing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has 2 to 9 times more oxygen than the Sun.

Th Supported are theoretical and computer simulation models that predicted abundant water (H2O) on Jupiter on oxygen (O) bound by molecular hydrogen (H2).

The pressures of the water, the researchers concluded, combined with their measurements of another oxygen-containing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has 2 to 9 times more oxygen than the Sun. (NASA image)

The revelation moved as the team's experiment could easily have failed. The Great Red Spot is full of dense clouds that make it difficult for electromagnetic energy to escape and teach astronomers about the chemistry in it.

"It turns out that they are not so fat that they block our ability to see deeply," said Bjoraker. "That was a pleasant surprise."

New spectroscopic technology and pure curiosity gave the team a boost to look deep into Jupiter, which has an atmosphere of thousands of miles in depth, Bjoraker said, "We thought, well, let's see what's out there. "

The data Bjoraker and his team have collected will supplement the information gathered by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it circles the planet from north to south once in 53 days. [19659010] Juno is looking for water with his own infrared spectrometer and a microwave radiometer that can probe deeper than anyone has ever seen – up to 100 cycles or 100 times the atmospheric pressure on the surface of the earth Height on Jupiter is measured in bars that represent atmospheric pressure because the planet has no surface like the Earth from which you can measure altitude.)

When Juno returns similar water findings, he supports Bjoraker's ground-based technique "It could open a new window to solve the water problem, "said Goddards Amy Simon, Planetary Atmospheric Expert.

" If it works, maybe we can Apply somewhere like Saturn, Uranus or Neptune where we do not. "I have a Juno," she said.

Juno is the newest spacecraft tasked with finding probable gaseous waters on this giant gas planet.

Water is a significant and abundant molecule in our solar system. It has produced life on Earth and now lubricates many of its major processes, including the weather. It is also a critical factor in Jupiter's turbulent weather and in determining whether the planet has a core of rock and ice.

Jupiter is considered the first planet to have formed by merging the elements of the formation of The Sun as our star from an amorphous nebula into the fiery gas ball we see today.

A widely accepted theory until a few decades ago was that Jupiter was identical in composition to the Sun; a ball of hydrogen with a touch of helium – all gas, no core.

But there are signs that Jupiter has a core, perhaps ten times the mass of Earth. Spacecraft that previously visited the planet found chemical evidence that it formed a core of rock and water ice before it mixed with gases from the sun's nebula to create its atmosphere. The way Jupiter's gravity pulls at Juno also supports this theory. There is even lightning and thunder on the planet, phenomena driven by moisture.

"The moons orbiting Jupiter are mostly water-ice, so the whole area has a lot of water," Bjoraker said. "Why should the planet – which is this huge gravity source, where everything falls into it – also be rich in water?"

The water question has driven planetary scientists mad; Practically every time there are traces of H2O, something happens to free them from the smell. A popular example among Jupiter experts is NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which in 1995 dropped a probe into the atmosphere, which was located in an unusually dry region. "It's like sending a probe to Earth, landing in the Mojave Desert, and concluding that the earth is dry," Bjoraker said.

The Great Red Spot is the dark spot in the center of this infrared image of Jupiter. Due to the thick clouds that block the heat radiation, it is dark. The yellow stripe indicates that part of the Great Red Spot used in the analysis of astrophysicist Gordon L. Bjoraker. (NASA image)

In search of water, Bjoraker and his team used the radiation data collected at the 2017 summit in Maunakea, Hawaii. They relied on the Earth's most sensitive infrared telescope at W.M. Keck Observatory, and also on a new instrument that can detect a wider range of gases at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility.

The idea was to analyze the light energy emitted by Jupiter clouds to identify the heights of their cloud layers. This would help scientists determine the temperature and other conditions that affect the types of gases that can survive in these regions.

Planet atmosphere experts expect Jupiter to have three cloud layers: a lower layer of water ice and liquid water, a middle layer of ammonia and sulfur, and an upper layer of ammonia.

To confirm this by observations on the ground, Bjoraker's team studied infrared wavelengths in which most gases do not absorb heat absorbing chemical signatures. In particular, they analyzed the absorption patterns of a form of methane gas. Because Jupiter is too warm to freeze methane, its abundance should not change from one place to another on the planet.

"If you see that the strength of the methane lines varies from the inside to the outside of the Great Red Spot, that's not the case because there's more methane there than there," said Bjoraker, "because thicker, deeper clouds are the radiation in the Great Block Red Spot. "

Bjoraker's team found evidence of the three cloud strata in the Great Red Spot, supporting earlier models. The deepest cloud layer is at 5 bar, the team said, just where temperature reaches freezing point for water, Bjoraker said, "so I say we've probably found a cloud of water."

The location of the cloud of water, plus the amount of carbon monoxide that the researchers identified with Jupiter, confirms that Jupiter is rich in oxygen and therefore water.

Bjoraker's technique must now be tested on other parts of Jupiter to get a complete picture of global water

"Jupiter's abundance of water will tell us a lot about how the giant planet formed, but only if we find out can see how much water there is on the planet, "said Steven M Levin, Juno Project Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California

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