June 5, 2023 5:22 pm

This sequence of colour-enhanced pictures shows Jupiter NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it swoops by the giant planet.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

Jupiter is by far the most enormous and enigmatic planet in our solar technique. Its numerous moons, the iconic stormy red spot, and the mysterious swirls and stripes that hold switching up their colours have puzzled astronomers for centuries.

But now, it appears that astronomers have lastly decoded the latter’s secrets, thanks to NASA’s Juno Mission digging out amazing new facts on Jupiter’s magnetic field.

The chameleon-esque dark and light bands wrapped about the gas giant are basically cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, zipping about in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.

Scientists had lengthy suspected that infrared (IR) variations about 50 km under the planet’s surface have been somehow linked to colour-altering belts on Jupiter. Having said that, the most up-to-date investigation has shown that these hyperlinks go even deeper!

In actuality, these IR variations outcome from waves propagating from Jupiter’s deep interiors, developed by its personal magnetic field. This has led scientists to think that the modifications in the planet’s magnetic field are causing these mysterious colour shifts.

“Each 4 or 5 years, factors alter. The colours of the belts can alter, and at times you see international upheavals when the entire climate pattern goes slightly crazy for a bit, and it has been a mystery as to why that occurs,” says Professor Chris Jones, a member of the investigation group.

Utilizing the information collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, the study group monitored the modifications in Jupiter’s magnetic field more than seven lengthy years. Their calculations revealed that the period of infrared variations synced up with the wave-like motions or torsional oscillations developed by the planet’s magnetic field.

More than the years, tracking these waves and oscillations in Jupiter’s magnetic field led researchers to the Wonderful Blue Spot — a particular spot on the gas giant’s magnetic field. The most up-to-date information shows that this spot is moving eastwards and slowing its pace. Scientists think this is the transition point, the starting of the new oscillation.

From right here on, scientists anticipate the wave’s movements to slow down just before reversing and switching to a westward path, heralding modifications in the IR radiations and, in turn, the planet’s coloured bands and stripes.

These findings have not only answered why Jupiter keeps altering its colours but also brought scientists closer to understanding Jupiter’s climate pattern, establishing a connecting hyperlink in between the modifications in the planet’s climate, its surface and deep inside its interiors.

Having said that, concerns about how these Jupiterian waves make the observed infrared variations stay.

When these answers would most probably be discovered by unravelling the complicated dynamics and cloud or aerosol reactions in Jupiter’s climate, Dr Kumiko Hori, a co-author of the study, hopes that this investigation “opens a window to probe the hidden deep interior of Jupiter, just like seismology does for the Earth and helioseismology does for the Sun”.

This study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy and can be accessed right here.


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