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New video of Jupiter are the first to catch an invisible wave shaking up Jupiter’s jet
streams, an interaction that also takes place in Earth’s atmosphere and influences the weather. The video, made from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft when it flew by Jupiter in 2000, are part of an in-depth study conducted by a team of scientists and amateur astronomers led by Amy Simon-Miller at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.. As explained researchers similar to Earth, Jupiter is encircled by several fast-moving jet streams. Earth’s strongest and most recognizable jet streams are located near the planet’s north and south poles, and they have the ability to influence weather on the planet. These winds blow west to east, but they get jostled around as they interact with slow-moving waves, called Rossby waves, in Earth’s atmosphere. Jupiter’s jet streams, however, have always appeared to be straight and narrow. Astronomers identified Rossby waves in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere about 20 years ago, but they had never been directly detected. Researchers were also confused because these waves were not found in the planet’s southern hemisphere. David Choi, a postdoctoral fellow at Goddard, stitched together about a hundred Cassini images to make each time-lapse movie, which zooms in on a single jet stream in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. The videos show a line of small, dark, V-shaped features called “chevrons” along one edge of the jet stream. The researchers also found that these chevrons are tied to another type of wave in Jupiter’s atmosphere, called a gravity inertia wave. Studying Rossby waves and gravity inertia waves on Jupiter could help astronomers probe the deep atmosphere of the gas giant planet. The scientists now think the South Equatorial Disturbance and Jupiter’s most famous storm, the Great Red Spot, could explain several differences found between the jet streams and Rossby waves seen on the two sides of the planet’s equator.
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