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Jupiter’s atmosphere has more water than previous estimates

Date: 21 February 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

A study based on data from NASA’s Juno mission showed that water makes up about 0.25% of the molecules in Jupiter’s atmosphere along its equator, almost three times that of the Sun.

 

Background

The study provided the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since the space agency’s 1995 Galileo mission.

 

Details

  • According to the researchers, Jupiter may be extremely dry compared to the Sun,  a comparison based not on liquid water, but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen.

  • They said Jupiter was likely the first planet to form, and it contains most of the gas and dust that wasn’t incorporated into the Sun.

  • Water abundance also has important implications for the gas giant’s meteorology and internal structure.

  • Juno’s surprise discovery that the atmosphere was not well mixed even well below the cloud tops is a puzzle that researchers are still trying to figure out.

  • Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) observes Jupiter from above using six antennas that measure atmospheric temperature at multiple depths simultaneously.

  • The MWR takes advantage of the fact that water absorbs certain wavelengths of microwave radiation, the same trick used by microwave ovens to quickly heat food.

  • The measured temperatures are used to constrain the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, as both molecules absorb microwave radiation.

  • From its orbital perch, the radiometer was able to collect data from a far greater depth into Jupiter’s atmosphere than the Galileo probe, where the pressure reaches about 480 psi.

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