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Jupiter – The Gas Giant: "Does the Great Red Spot show it's a water planet?"



Posted on August 30, 2018

"The moons orbiting Jupiter are mostly water-ice, so the area has a lot of water," said Gordon L. Bjoraker, astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Why should the planet ̵

1; which one is this huge source of gravity into which everything falls – also be rich in water?"

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

For centuries scientists have worked 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 a key to learning more about how our solar system formed and even about 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?

Bjoraker reported in a recent work in The Astronomical Journal that he and his team are the Jupiter Research Community closer to the answer.

By looking from ground-based telescopes to wavelengths that are sensitive to heat radiation, from the depths of Jupiter's stubborn storm, the Great Red Spot, they found the chemical signatures of water over the planet's deepest clouds. The pressure of the water, the researchers conclude, combined with their measurements of another oxygen-containing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has 2 to 9 times more oxygen than the Sun. This finding supports theoretical and computer simulation models that have predicted abundant water (H2O) from oxygen (O) with molecular hydrogen (H2) on Jupiter.

The Big Red Spot is the dark spot in the middle infrared image. 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.

The revelation moved because 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 chemistry.

"It turns out that they are not so fat that they block our ability to see deeply," Bjoraker said. "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 collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it orbits the planet from north to south every 53 days.

Among other things, Juno is searching Water with its own infrared spectrometer and a microwave radiometer that can probe deeper than anyone has ever seen – up to 100 bar or 100 times the atmospheric pressure at the Earth's surface. (The height on Jupiter is measured in bars representing the atmospheric pressure, because the planet has no surface like the earth from which you can measure the height.)

When Juno returns similar water findings, he supports Björker'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, we may be able to apply it elsewhere, like Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune,

Juno is the newest spacecraft tasked with finding probable gaseous waters on this huge 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. This 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 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.

In search of water, Bjoraker and his team used radiation data from the Maunakea summit in Hawaii in 2017. They rely on the world's most sensitive infrared telescope at the World Cup Keck Observatory, and also on a new instrument, the one wider range of gases at the NASA's 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 any 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 Big 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 cover is at 5 bar, the team said, right where the temperature reaches freezing for water, Bjoraker said, "so I say we've probably found a cloud of water." The location of the water cloud The amount of carbon monoxide that the researchers identified in Jupiter confirms that Jupiter is rich in oxygen and therefore in water.

Bjoraker's technology now needs to be tested on other parts of Jupiter to get a complete picture of the global abundance of water – his data summed up with Juno's findings.

The Daily Galaxy about NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center, written by Lonnie Shekhtman

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