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Strong ammonia storms on Jupiter are messing up the belts of the planet



Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is perhaps the most famous for its huge red spot, a constant storm that has been observed since 1830. Now new powerful storms have set in on the gas giant and disrupt the Red Spot planet belt.

These storms affect the white and brown belts of the planet and cause distortions between the normally separated bands. The storms, which consist of ammonia and water vapor, rise through Jupiter's cloud layer and then condense into white flags.

  Jupiter in radio waves with ALMA (above) and visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope (below). The eruption in the southern equatorial belt is visible in both images. (Source: ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO] I de Pater et al; NRAO / AUI NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA / Hubble)

Jupiter in radio waves with ALMA (above) and visible light with the Hubble Space Telescope (below). The eruption in the southern equatorial belt is visible in both images. (Credit: ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO] I de Pater et al .; NRAO / AUI NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA / Hubble)

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"If these feathers are strong and continue to have convective events, they can interfere with one of these bands over time, though this may take several months. " said the lead author of the study, Imke de Pater, in a statement. "With these observations, we see one cloud underway and the aftermath of the other."

The study to be published in the Astronomical Journal can be found here.

Researchers identified the storms using the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Our ALMA observations show for the first time that high concentrations of ammonia gas are produced during an energetic eruption," added de Pater.

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Normally, the ammonia clouds are the topmost thin layer of the brown and white clouds that make up Jupiter bands. However, since the ammonia does not rise higher than the hydrogen and helium that make up the planet's atmosphere, it is difficult to know what causes these storms, the researchers said.

"We were really lucky with these data because they were taken" Only a few days after amateur astronomers found a bright cloud in the south equatorial belt, "de Pater continued," We watched the planet and ALMA with ALMA Seen, and since ALMA interrogates among the cloud layers, we could actually see what is going on under the ammonia clouds. "

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