Science & Tech

Surprise discovery shows major feature on Jupiter that experts had previously missed

Surprise discovery shows major feature on Jupiter that experts had previously missed
NASA discovers massive jet stream on Jupiter
AccuWeather / VideoElephant

Despite being by far the largest planet in the solar system, experts are still making surprise discoveries about Jupiter.

The planet is only beaten in size by the Sun and as technology has evolved, scientists have sent multiple probes to investigate Jupiter.

Despite all the scientific work that has gone into investigating the stripes and swirls that give Jupiters its well-known appearance, experts have only just discovered the existence of a high-speed jetstream above the clouds around the planet’s equator.

The jetstream is a whopping 3,000 miles wide and was discovered thanks to the infrared data gathered by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) currently orbiting the Sun.

Its discovery is giving experts an insight into how the planet’s atmosphere works, as well as its ill-understood weather phenomena.

Ricardo Hueso from the University of the Basque Country in Spain is the lead author of the study, published in Nature Astronomy and explained: “This is something that totally surprised us.”

He added: “What we have always seen as blurred hazes in Jupiter’s atmosphere now appear as crisp features that we can track along with the planet’s fast rotation.”

Scientists have long been aware of light and dark clouds that are known as zones and belts that travel around the planet in different directions and at differing altitudes, but how this occurs has left them baffled.

Analysis of the data collected by the JWST revealed the jetstream that was previously only just visible but very hazy. Data confirmed that it sits around 25 miles above the clouds and travels around Jupiter’s equator at around 515 kilometres per hour (320 mph).

The researchers compared their data with that collected from the Hubble’s observations of the lower cloud levels and concluded that the jetstream may form part of a weather pattern.

Planetary scientist Leigh Fletcher from the University of Leicester, explained: “Jupiter has a complicated but repeatable pattern of winds and temperatures in its equatorial stratosphere, high above the winds in the clouds and hazes measured at these wavelengths.”

He added: “If the strength of this new jet is connected to this oscillating stratospheric pattern, we might expect the jet to vary considerably over the next two to four years – it'll be really exciting to test this theory in the years to come.”

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