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Jupiter’s stormy weather no tempest in teapot

New 3-D map shows ammonia swirling up to 100 kilometers below planet’s clouds

2:00pm, June 2, 2016
Maps of Jupiter

TWO VIEWS  A radio map shows ammonia churning around Jupiter’s Great Red Spot dozens of kilometers below the cloud deck; the colors represent two radio frequencies, marking different levels of ammonia. A Hubble space telescope image shows what the region looks like in visible light. 

Jupiter’s turbulence is not just skin deep. The giant planet’s visible storms and blemishes have roots far below the clouds, researchers report in the June 3 Science. The new observations offer a preview of what NASA’s Juno spacecraft will see when it sidles up to Jupiter later this year.

A chain of rising plumes, each reaching nearly 100 kilometers into Jupiter, dredges up ammonia to form ice clouds. Between the plumes, dry air sinks back into the Jovian depths. And the famous Great Red Spot, a storm more than twice as wide as Earth that has churned for several hundred years, extends at least dozens of kilometers below the clouds as well.

Jupiter’s dynamic atmosphere provides a possible window into how the planet works inside. “One of the big questions is what is driving that change,” says Leigh Fletcher, a planetary scientist at the University of

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