Experts found that currents reach 1,450 kilometers per hour, exceeding more than three times the wind speed of the largest tornadoes recorded on Earth.
A team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has directly measured the powerful stratospheric winds on Jupiter for the first time, according to a statement published on its website on Thursday.
In 1994, the cometa Shoemaker-Levy 9 it collided “in spectacular fashion” with the gaseous planet, generating new molecules in its stratosphere, where they have been moving with the winds ever since.
Using 42 of the 66 high-precision antennas at the ALMA astronomical facility, located in the Atacama desert, Chile, scientists have traced some of these molecules (hydrogen cyanide) to directly measure Jupiter’s stratospheric “jets.” .
Presence of strong jets
“The most spectacular result is the presence of strong jets, with speeds of up to 400 meters per second, found under the aurora, near the poles,” explained Thibault Cavalié, an astronomer at the Bordeaux Astrophysics Laboratory (France) who directed the investigation.
Experts point out that these speeds, which are equivalent to around 1,450 kilometers per hour, represent more than double the maximum storm speeds reached in the Great Red Spot Jupiter and more than triple the wind speed measured in the largest tornadoes on Earth.
“These jets could behave like a giant vortex with a diameter of up to four times that of the Earth and about 900 kilometers high,” said Bilal Benmahi, co-author of the study. “A vortex of this size would be a unique weather beast in our solar system,” he added.
Until now, astronomers were aware of the strong winds present near Jupiter’s poles, but in the upper atmosphere. In fact, it was thought that these currents would diminish and disappear before reaching the stratosphere, but according to Cavalié, “the new data from ALMA tells us otherwise”, which is a “real surprise”.
On the other hand, scientists have confirmed for the first time that there are strong stratospheric winds around the equator of that planet, whose average speeds reach approximately 600 kilometers per hour.
“These ALMA results open a new window for the study of the regions of Jupiter with auroras, something really unexpected just a few months ago, “said Cavalié.
For his part, Thomas Greathouse, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (USA) and co-author of the research, assured that “they also set the stage for similar, but more extensive measurements, to be carried out by the JUICE mission and its wave instrument. submillimeter “.