Radiation spectrum of planet

x axis is wave length in the unit of nm y axis is intensity of the astronomic object in an arbitrary unit. Temperature of planet used for calculation was mean value.

Cloud layersEdit

Main article: Atmosphere of Jupiter
File:PIA02863 - Jupiter surface motion animation.gif

Jupiter is perpetually covered with clouds composed of ammonia crystals and possibly ammonium hydrosulfide. The clouds are located in the tropopause and are arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These are sub-divided into lighter-hued zones and darker belts. The interactions of these conflicting circulation patterns cause storms and turbulence. Wind speeds of 100 m/s (360 km/h) are common in zonal jets.[1] The zones have been observed to vary in width, color and intensity from year to year, but they have remained sufficiently stable for astronomers to give them identifying designations.[2]

The cloud layer is only about 50 km deep, and consists of at least two decks of clouds: a thick lower deck and a thin clearer region. There may also be a thin layer of water clouds underlying the ammonia layer, as evidenced by flashes of lightning detected in the atmosphere of Jupiter. (Water is a polar molecule that can carry a charge, so it is capable of creating the charge separation needed to produce lightning.)[3] These electrical discharges can be up to a thousand times as powerful as lightning on the Earth.[4] The water clouds can form thunderstorms driven by the heat rising from the interior.[5]

The orange and brown coloration in the clouds of Jupiter are caused by upwelling compounds that change color when they are exposed to ultraviolet light from the Sun. The exact makeup remains uncertain, but the substances are believed to be phosphorus, sulfur or possibly hydrocarbons.[6][3] These colorful compounds, known as chromophores, mix with the warmer, lower deck of clouds. The zones are formed when rising convection cells form crystallizing ammonia that masks out these lower clouds from view.[7]

Jupiter's low axial tilt means that the poles constantly receive less solar radiation than at the planet's equatorial region. Convection within the interior of the planet transports more energy to the poles, however, balancing out the temperatures at the cloud layer.[2]

Great Red Spot and other stormsEdit

Great Red Spot From Voyager 1

This dramatic view of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and its surroundings was obtained by Voyager 1 on February 25, 1979, when the spacecraft was 9.2 million km (5.7 million mi) from Jupiter. Cloud details as small as 160 km (100 mi) across can be seen here. The colorful, wavy cloud pattern to the left of the Red Spot is a region of extraordinarily complex and variable wave motion. To give a sense of Jupiter's scale, the white oval storm directly below the Great Red Spot is approximately the same diameter as Earth.

The best known feature of Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a persistent anticyclonic storm located 22° south of the equator that is larger than Earth. It is known to have been in existence since at least 1831,[8] and possibly since 1665.[9] Mathematical models suggest that the storm is stable and may be a permanent feature of the planet.[10] The storm is large enough to be visible through Earth-based telescopes.

The oval object rotates counterclockwise, with a period of about six days.[11] The Great Red Spot's dimensions are 24–40,000 km × 12–14,000 km. It is large enough to contain two or three planets of Earth's diameter.[12] The maximum altitude of this storm is about 8 km above the surrounding cloudtops.[13]

Storms such as this are common within the turbulent atmospheres of gas giants. Jupiter also has white ovals and brown ovals, which are lesser unnamed storms. White ovals tend to consist of relatively cool clouds within the upper atmosphere. Brown ovals are warmer and located within the "normal cloud layer". Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

790106-0203 Voyager 58M to 31M reduced

Time-lapse sequence from the approach of Voyager I to Jupiter, showing the motion of atmospheric bands, and circulation of the great red spot.

Even before Voyager proved that the feature was a storm, there was strong evidence that the spot could not be associated with any deeper feature on the planet's surface, as the Spot rotates differentially with respect to the rest of the atmosphere, sometimes faster and sometimes more slowly. During its recorded history it has traveled several times around the planet relative to any possible fixed rotational marker below it.

In 2000, an atmospheric feature formed in the southern hemisphere that is similar in appearance to the Great Red Spot, but smaller in size. This was created when several smaller, white oval-shaped storms merged to form a single feature—these three smaller white ovals were first observed in 1938. The merged feature was named Oval BA, and has been nicknamed Red Spot Junior. It has since increased in intensity and changed color from white to red.[14][15][16]

Planetary ringsEdit

Main article: Rings of Jupiter
PIA01627 Ringe

The rings of Jupiter.

Jupiter has a faint planetary ring system composed of three main segments: an inner torus of particles known as the halo, a relatively bright main ring, and an outer "gossamer" ring.[17] These rings appear to be made of dust, rather than ice as is the case for Saturn's rings.[3] The main ring is probably made of material ejected from the satellites Adrastea and Metis. Material that would normally fall back to the moon is pulled into Jupiter because of its strong gravitational pull. The orbit of the material veers towards Jupiter and new material is added by additional impacts.[18] In a similar way, the moons Thebe and Amalthea probably produce the two distinct components of the gossamer ring.[18]


Jupiter's broad magnetic field is 14 times as strong as the Earth's, ranging from 4.2 gauss (0.42 mT) at the equator to 10–14 gauss (1.0–1.4 mT) at the poles, making it the strongest in the Solar System (with the exception of sunspots).[7] This field is believed to be generated by eddy currents — swirling movements of conducting materials—within the metallic hydrogen core. The field traps a sheet of ionized particles from the solar wind, generating a highly-energetic magnetic field outside the planet — the magnetosphere. Electrons from this plasma sheet ionize the torus-shaped cloud of sulfur dioxide generated by the tectonic activity on the moon Io. Hydrogen particles from Jupiter's atmosphere are also trapped in the magnetosphere. Electrons within the magnetosphere generate a strong radio signature that produces bursts in the range of 0.6–30 MHz.[19]

At about 75 Jupiter radii from the planet, the interaction of the magnetosphere with the solar wind generates a bow shock. Surrounding Jupiter's magnetosphere is a magnetopause, located at the inner edge of a magnetosheath, where the planet's magnetic field becomes weak and disorganized. The solar wind interacts with these regions, elongating the magnetosphere on Jupiter's lee side and extending it outward until it nearly reaches the orbit of Saturn. The four largest moons of Jupiter all orbit within the magnetosphere, which protects them from the solar wind.[3]


Aurora borealis on Jupiter. Three bright dots are created by magnetic flux tubes that connect to the Jovian moons Io (on the left), Ganymede (on the bottom) and Europa (also on the bottom). In addition, the very bright almost circular region, called the main oval, and the fainter polar aurora can be seen.

The magnetosphere of Jupiter is responsible for intense episodes of radio emission from the planet's polar regions. Volcanic activity on the Jovian moon Io (see below) injects gas into Jupiter's magnetosphere, producing a torus of particles about the planet. As Io moves through this torus, the interaction generates Alfven waves that carry ionized matter into the polar regions of Jupiter. As a result, radio waves are generated through a cyclotron maser mechanism, and the energy is transmitted out along a cone-shaped surface. When the Earth intersects this cone, the radio emissions from Jupiter can exceed the solar radio output.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. Ingersoll, A. P.; Dowling, T. E.; Gierasch, P. J.; Orton, G. S.; Read, P. L.; Sanchez-Lavega, A.; Showman, A. P.; Simon-Miller, A. A.; Vasavada A. R.. "Dynamics of Jupiter’s Atmosphere" (PDF). Lunar & Planetary Institute. Retrieved on 2007-02-01.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named burgess
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named elkins-tanton
  4. Watanabe, Susan:"Surprising Jupiter: Busy Galileo spacecraft showed jovian system is full of surprises". NASA (February 25, 2006). Retrieved on 2007-02-20.
  5. Kerr, Richard A. (2000). "Deep, Moist Heat Drives Jovian Weather". Science 287 (5455): 946–947. doi:10.1126/science.287.5455.946b, Retrieved on 24 February 2007. 
  6. Strycker, P. D.; Chanover, N.; Sussman, M.; Simon-Miller, A. (2006). "A Spectroscopic Search for Jupiter's Chromophores". DPS meeting #38, #11.15, American Astronomical Society. Retrieved on 2007-02-20. 
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named worldbook
  8. Denning, W. F. (1899). "Jupiter, early history of the great red spot on". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 59: 574–584, Retrieved on 9 February 2007. 
  9. Kyrala, A. (1982). "An explanation of the persistence of the Great Red Spot of Jupiter". Moon and the Planets 26: 105–7. doi:10.1007/BF00941374, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  10. Sommeria, Jöel; Steven D. Meyers & Harry L. Swinney (February 25, 1988). "Laboratory simulation of Jupiter's Great Red Spot". Nature 331: 689–693. doi:10.1038/331689a0, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  11. Cardall, C. Y.; Daunt, S. J.. "The Great Red Spot". University of Tennessee. Retrieved on 2007-02-02.
  12. "Jupiter Data Sheet". Retrieved on 2007-02-02.
  13. Phillips, Tony (March 3, 2006). "Jupiter's New Red Spot". NASA. Retrieved on 2007-02-02.
  14. "Jupiter's New Red Spot" (2006). Retrieved on 2006-03-09.
  15. Steigerwald, Bill (October 14, 2006). "Jupiter's Little Red Spot Growing Stronger". NASA. Retrieved on 2007-02-02.
  16. Goudarzi, Sara (May 4, 2006). "New storm on Jupiter hints at climate changes". USA Today. Retrieved on 2007-02-02.
  17. Showalter, M.A.; Burns, J.A.; Cuzzi, J. N.; Pollack, J. B. (1987). "Jupiter's ring system: New results on structure and particle properties". Icarus 69 (3): 458–98. doi:10.1016/0019-1035(87)90018-2, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Burns, J. A.; Showalter, M.R.; Hamilton, D.P.; (1999). "The Formation of Jupiter's Faint Rings". Science 284: 1146–50. doi:10.1126/science.284.5417.1146. PMID 10325220, Retrieved on 28 August 2007. 
  19. Brainerd, Jim (2004-11-22). "Jupiter's Magnetosphere", The Astrophysics Spectator. Retrieved on 10 August 2008. 
  20. "Radio Storms on Jupiter". NASA (February 20, 2004). Retrieved on 2007-02-01.

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