Storm on Earth vs. storm on Jupiter?

Storm on Earth vs. storm on Jupiter?

Why is the storm on Jupiter much stronger than storms on Earth and why don't the storms on Earth get as big as Jupiter's great red spot

Basically because Jupiter is a gas giant and thousands of times more massive than the Earth. Everything on Jupiter is on a gigantic scale. The Great Red Spot for instance could accommodate several Earths, so that explains why you couldn't have a storm on Earth which came anywhere near that size. As well as heat from the sun, which is what drives the weather on Earth, Jupiter has a massive internal source of heat.

The Mr. Hofeldt Student WHS Student Run Astronomy Blog

The solar system always impressed us, in this case the planet you're talking about "Jupiter" is one of the impresses us most by any solo Do size but also for its wild hay live environment. I think not mention the name of the storm you speak and if I'm right conforme à ma Description This storm is called "The Great Red Spot". It according to your information was impressed by the magnitude Having esta storm How this planet for us is really huge compared to other planets or natural phenomena in the space of v we can conclude that we have a long way. Another surprising thing you mention is very much time has been esta Present storm on the planet and how it is not weakened or how storms we know here on Earth. I would have liked to know what it is made esta storm and a Difference Because of our storms esta fin there seems to have. Also if our definition of storm is the same here as there because if Haci what is falling from heaven on that planet because I do not think seawater. On the one result m These questions look video One That I could help one find an answer and to share what I found via the link below.

I agree that Jupiter and its storm are very intriguing although I find it very difficult to wrap my mind around its size and intensity. It is difficult for humans to imagine something bigger than ourselves, and this is just one example. The storm is triple the size of the Earth and has winds of 120 miles per second. What kind of force can drive a storm at that speed and size for 130 years? By now you would think the storm would have died down but it hasn’t. So is it the conditions of Jupiter that keeps the storm alive or is it just the strength of the storm?

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I agree with you! The solar system just keep impressing all of us. It is crazy to think that Jupiter’s storm lasted between 136 years to as long as 351 years or even more! It also had impressed me on how big this planet is in general. Just the fact that it takes between 2 to 3 earths inside of it makes it so crazy to believe. Earth is already big enough. So imagining 2 to 3 of them is unbelievable. Also another fact that blew my mind is that we can see this storm through telescopes. We can see it from our home planet!

i agree that the solar sysytem always has a sense of wonder that intregues it. Is there any way that we can truly know that what goes on in the storm from the inside. More or less to see how the storm would be if we were inside it. I can imagine this storm as one way that we can be completely destroyed. I personally think that all the winds on earth would be enough to create the big storm. I would always wonder of what keep this storm going for so long. Is it even possible for us to create any structure that can survive these periless winds.

I too find Jupiter's storm to be amazing. Like just imagine earth having a storm for over 130 years with extreme winds and extreme size. I just think it’s amazing how these planets all have their own unique qualities. Just reading about the size and how the storm can contain 2 to 3 earths in it just blows my mind. The storm changing color or brightness of the color is also something I found really interesting. I want to know how or why the storm can change its color and brightness. I found this article on how, not necessarily why, it actually does change colors in the second part of views of Jupiter it shows and talks about the coloring of the great red spot which is really interesting.

While this is pretty neat, I don't feel like it's THAT mind blowing. I mean, take this into consideration. Over 1,000 earths can fit into Jupiter alone. It is more than understandable that there is a storm that is the size of our planet x2. Is that still huge, yes. I cannot even fathom what two earths would be like considering I haven't even been outside of this country.
I do think that it is kind of cool how you mentioned that it can change colors. It's similar to the storms that we have here on earth. Different angles of light or even different chemicals in the air. Whatever it may be, it's kind of cool knowing that we have similarities with such a huge planet. I mean, Venus is most like earth in many ways hence it being called the "sister planet". Knowing that Jupiter and earth are two very different planets, yet they have similarities, that's always fun. Anyways, this is a pretty neat article and it will be interesting to see if the storm up there will ever stop. I think that it will go on for a while longer but hey, it'll give us something to look at through a pretty gnarly lens.

I agree that it is very hard to understand how big this storm is when just a crazy blizzard here in Chicago seems huge. I also think it is fascinating that we have similarities with a lot of planets that I would have never thought of. I look at all the other planets as such crazy different and alienated objects compared to Earth. Yes, we do have big differences including season, water, and let’s not forget life, but they are all planets. As for the question about if it will ever stop, I believe that it will NOT because of its high intensity of winds and the power of the “eddy” keeping it moving along.

I don't know about you guys but I absolutely love storms, but a storm that has been going for at least 130 years…. That is just insane! But the scary part is that you have to take into consideration on how big jupiter really is, you can put 763.6 Earths inside of Jupiter. To me that is just mind boggling, and not to mention the fact that the storm could Easily fit an Earth or two inside of it. The giant planet produces winds of over 400 mph, and I thought that 20 mph was bad because it would nearly blow me away, but these winds would actually blow you away. The most violent tornadoes only reach speeds of approximately 300 mph and the storm on Jupiter is raising that by over 100 mph. This is absolutely terrifying but also incredible to think about considering that Jupiter has no solid surface so the storm just floats in a cloud of gas and just goes on and on and on. Jupiter has to be one of the coolest planets out there being its size and still being able to orbit and have its own orbit with its 63 moons following him along all the time.

Wow that is crazy Jimmy! But if you were on Jupiter, the gravity is drastically different and there is no solid surface either so technically you’d be floating just everywhere. Earth’s storm only affect us because we live on the surface. But Jupiter’s beauty has always blundered me. The whole planet sort of looks like a storm, a huge collection of winds which it basically is, jut a collection of gasses. It’s 23 moons are beyond cool as well, Titan is a lot like Earth and I hope we can visit these moons some day and make new, exciting discoveries.

Earth vs Jupiter

From its massive size to its powerful magnetic fields, here&rsquos why Jupiter one of the most interesting planets in our Solar System.

Jupiter&rsquos Size Is Even More Impressive When Compared To Earth

Jupiter is a massive planet. It would take 1,321 Earths to match Jupiter&rsquos volume. Actually, Jupiter is so big that you can see it without using a telescope. On a clear night, Jupiter can easily be seen with the naked eye. The hard part is finding it. Just use an AR app like Sky View to locate Jupiter.

Jupiter Has More Moons Than Any Other Planet

Jupiter has more moons than any other planet in our Solar System. But the exact Jupiter moons number is tough to calculate. Some astronomers estimate that Jupiter has over 200 sizeable objects orbiting the gas giant. Of those objects, 4 of them are classified as major moons. In comparison, Earth only has 1 moon.

NERD NOTE: In 1610, Galileo Galilei, an Italian polymath, observed and published his discovery of the four largest moons of Jupiter. They are collectively known today as the Galilean Moons. But it was a German astronomer named Simon Marius who individually named the moons Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Ganymede is the ninth-largest object in our Solar System, larger than planet Mercury and the only known moon to have its own magnetic field.

The Rotational Velocity Of Jupiter Is Very Fast

Jupiter is big, but it moves fast. The high-speed rotational velocity (28,148 mph (45,299.78 km/h)) of Jupiter results in the following:

  • Short Days: A day on Jupiter only lasts 10 hours.
  • Bands: Jupiter&rsquos striped pattern bands in its atmosphere are a result of gases and debris being put into motion. Each band has a different temperature and composition.
  • Oval Shape: Jupiter is spinning so fast that it&rsquos bulging at its equator and has a slight oval shape.

Jupiter Storms: Jupiter&rsquos Atmosphere Is Very Stormy

One of Jupiter&rsquos most well-known features is its red spot or red eye. That spot is actually a massive anticyclonic storm about 3x bigger than Earth. The storm has been going for hundreds or even thousands of years. The exact age of this storm isn&rsquot known, but it was first discovered by Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini in 1665.

Jupiter Has The Strongest Magnetic Field In The Solar System

On Earth, explorers have been using a compass to navigate for hundreds of years. Thanks to our magnetic field on Earth, a compass always points North. But trying to use a compass on Jupiter would be a waste of time. Due to its liquid metallic hydrogen core and storms containing conductive materials, Jupiter has the strongest magnetic field in the Solar System. It&rsquos so strong that Jupiter actually has a magnetosphere surrounding the planet.

NASA Spacecraft Spies Huge New Storm on Jupiter After Death-Dodging Maneuver

Juno has now spotted seven giant cyclones near Jupiter's south pole.

SAN FRANCISCO — NASA's Juno probe discovered a giant new storm swirling near Jupiter's south pole last month, a few weeks after pulling off a dramatic death-dodging maneuver.

Juno spied the newfound maelstrom, which is about as wide as Texas, on Nov. 3, during its most recent close flyby of Jupiter. The storm joins a family of six other cyclones in Jupiter's south polar region, which Juno had spotted on previous passes by the gas giant. (Those encounters also revealed nine cyclones near Jupiter's north pole, by the way.)

The southern tempests are arrayed in a strikingly regular fashion. Previously, five of them had formed a pentagon around a central storm, which is as wide as the continental United States. With the new addition, that girdling structure is now a hexagon.

"These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before," Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement yesterday (Dec. 12).

"Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work," he added. "We are beginning to grasp it through observations and computer simulations. Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time."

Juno orbits Jupiter on a highly elliptical path every 53 Earth days, gathering most of its data when it comes closest to the giant planet. And those encounters are quite close indeed: During the Nov. 3 pass, the 22nd science flyby of Juno's $1.1 billion mission, the probe skimmed a mere 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops, NASA officials said.

But it took some fancy flying to make sure Juno survived the experience. The mission team determined that the probe's trajectory would take Juno into Jupiter's shadow for 12 hours on Nov. 3. And that likely would've been a death sentence for the solar-powered probe.

"We would've gotten cold. Really, really cold," Juno project scientist Steve Levin, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said during a press conference here yesterday at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), where the team announced the new results.

But the navigation team at JPL came up with a solution: "jumping Jupiter's shadow." On Sept. 30, Juno's handlers directed the solar-powered probe to fire its small reaction-control engines in pulses for 10.5 hours. This pushed the probe's path steadily outward — and, ultimately, out of the shadow path altogether, Levin explained.

"Without that maneuver, without the creative genius of the folks at JPL on the navigation team, we wouldn't have the beautiful data that we have to show you today," he said.

Juno launched in 2011 and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft is studying Jupiter's composition and gravitational and magnetic fields, among other things. The data Juno is gathering should help researchers better understand how Jupiter — and, by extension, the solar system — formed and evolved, mission team members have said.

The initial mission plan called for Juno to tighten its science orbit considerably, down to 14 Earth days. But the team called off the engine burns that would have achieved this reduction after discovering issues with the probe's fuel-delivery system. So, Juno will stay in the 53-day orbit for the duration of its mission, which currently goes through July 2021.

These storms on Jupiter are way better than any hurricane on Earth

We all know about Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the extreme, Earth-sized storm that's been swirling on the huge planet for decades.

But what about the world's other, less well known tempests?

A series of studies published in the journal Nature this week reveal new discoveries about the way that Jupiter's atmosphere functions and the storms that swirl within it. In particular, one of the studies details the nature of the cyclones spinning in the clouds of Jupiter's north and south poles.

In the planet's north pole, one large cyclone is surrounded by eight other polar cyclones, and a large south polar cyclone is encircled by five cyclones, according to the new study produced using data from NASA's Jupiter-exploring Juno probe.

"Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter's poles. Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months," Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator, and lead author of the cyclone study, said in a statement.

"Each one of the northern cyclones is almost as wide as the distance between Naples, Italy and New York City -- and the southern ones are even larger than that. They have very violent winds, reaching, in some cases, speeds as great as 220 mph (350 kph). Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, they are very close together and enduring. There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system."

Jupiter's storms are complex beasts that defy explanation at this point.

The dynamics of the storms in the south and north poles of the world are mysterious, and scientists aren't sure how they formed or how they have persisted.

Even Saturn's storms aren't a good proxy for the dynamics at play on Jupiter. Saturn actually has one hexagon-shaped storm at each pole, so why does Jupiter have more than one and why don't they merge together?

It's also odd that the cyclones at the north and south pole on Jupiter aren't the same.

"The Juno observations so far provide concrete evidence that the Jovian poles display multitudes of structure at its poles, but that structure is not identical at both poles, even though the stability and structures have remained stable over 11-months," planetary scientist Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, who wasn't an author on the new study, said via email.

"How? Why? These are questions that will engage Jovian researchers for years to come."

In general, storms on Jupiter are pretty badass.

A storm called the North North Temperate Little Red Spot 1 is 3,700 miles across. Yes, a storm that's over 3,000 miles across -- which is roughly the distance from California to New York -- is considered "little" on Jupiter.

The huge planet's storms can also swirl for years and years because Jupiter, unlike Earth, doesn't have any continents that would break up airflow feeding these tempests.

Storm on Earth vs. storm on Jupiter? - Astronomy

For 400 years scientists have puzzled over the swirling and turbulent clouds on Jupiter. Now the giant planet's secret is out.

Based on information provided by Cornell University

Anvil clouds tower more than 30 miles high. Amid the gathering gloom, 100 mph winds whip clouds across the sky. Painfully brilliant lightning flashes punctuate the tumult. Meanwhile, clouds from another giant storm dump several inches of water, every day, over an area more than 600 miles across.

Given the supernatural severity of these storms, and thunderheads three times higher than we see on our planet, we are clearly not on the Earth. Welcome to the super-storms of Jupiter.

The giant planet of the Solar System is as different from the Earth as any planet could be. Jupiter is big enough to fit 1300 Earths inside, and it is made of gas and liquid throughout. Yet some of its storms are remarkably similar - though vaster in scale - to thunderstorms on Earth. Even stranger, the latest results from NASA's Galileo spacecraft reveal that these storms are powered in a completely different way from terrestrial thunderstorms.

"There is a lot of activity we see on Jupiter that we see on Earth," says Peter J. Gierasch, professor of astronomy at Cornell University. Along with colleagues from Cornell, the California Institute of Technology and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Gierasch has been studying views of Jupiter taken by Galileo on May 4, 1999. He continues: "We see jet streams, large cyclonic elements, large anti-cyclonic elements and many elements of unpredictability and turbulence."


The giant planet is 1300 times larger than Earth

Two storm centers are visible in these Galileo images.

Top: The false colors show how deep the clouds lie in Jupiter's atmosphere: the highest appear blue, intermediate clouds green and the deepest clouds red.

Middle: A lightning strike (blue) is overlaid. It was photographed while the same storm was on the night side of the planet.

Bottom: The short lines show wind speeds.


They discovered that some of the storms here closely resemble clusters of thunderstorms found on Earth - mesoscale convective complexes. What is remarkable about the storm complexes on Jupiter, says Gierasch, is that they have the same physics as thunderstorm clusters on Earth, but they are generated by a completely different type of heat source. Generally, thunderstorms on Earth are small individual cells of cumulonimbus clouds, caused by summertime heat from the Sun. A mesoscale convective complex is a cluster of many cells of thunderstorms, of the type that commonly strikes the midwestern United States. These complexes are also formed by intense summertime heat.

The Sun's heat drives other weather patterns on Earth, of course, such as hurricanes and cyclones. The difference is the source of the system's 'fuel'. Hurricanes and cyclones on Earth are fueled by the warm ocean. Mesoscale convective complexes develop because of an instability in the atmosphere. Where it is warm near the Earth's surface in the summer and cooler aloft, condensation rises and forms many cells of intense thunderclouds over a vast area. These summertime giants can last for hours, even days, and dump unusually large amounts of rain.


The violent storms on Jupiter are driven by the immense heat from the core

On Jupiter, the colossal mesoscale convective complexes also last from 12 hours to several Earth days, producing correspondingly huge deluges of rain over vast areas. The new results show that - contrary to previous belief - these thunderstorm complexes are not fuelled by the Sun's heat, but instead develop from the intense heat emanating from Jupiter's core.

The giant planet lies five times further from the Sun than the Earth, so it receives much less solar heat. On the other hand, Jupiter's core is extremely hot. It still retains heat from the planet's original formation by collapse and compression of the planet's huge gaseous bulk. "It is in the process of cooling, and it will likely continue to cool for at least another five billion years," Gierasch says.

Heat leaks upwards from a reservoir of highly compressed hydrogen in the planet's center, so this gaseous giant emits nearly 70 percent more heat than it absorbs from the Sun. The source of the stormy turbulence on Jupiter thus seems to be the planet itself.

Mesoscale convective complexes on Earth are riven with lightning, seen dramatically from the space shuttle. What about Jupiter's giant storm systems? Galileo's instruments are not able to detect lightning on the planet's sunlit side. But once the storm crosses into the dark side, astronomers are able to see the lightning and confirm the existence of Jupiter's mesoscale convective complexes .


The Great Red Spot is the most powerful thunderstorm in the Solar System

These lightning bolts dwarf anything on Earth, according to Andrew. P. Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology and Blaine Little of ITRES Research, Calgary, Canada. They have measured the Jovian lightning strokes as several times the size of the largest terrestrial bolts.

Jupiter's storms are not only spectacular. The new Galileo results suggest that the mesoscale convective complexes provide the energy that drives the whole of Jupiter's powerful weather system. It's an almost-continuous cycle, Gierasch explains. The storms develop and drop rain the raindrops evaporate prior to reaching Jupiter's core heat-source, and rise again as water vapour that convect upwards to start the next round of storms.

In the 400 years since the Italian astronomer Galileo first turned his telescope towards Jupiter, astronomers have puzzled over its spectacular bands and whorls of swirling clouds. Now the giant planet's secret is out. Its turbulent clouds and ferocious weather systems are fueled by its hidden superhot core, and driven by the greatest thunderstorms in the Solar System .

You can find out more about physics at Cornell University on their webpage.

Jupiter's Atmosphere

Since mankind has first looked up at the night sky, we have been filled with a sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity. For millennia humanity has looked up at Jupiter the same way and, as more is learned about the Jovian planet, these feelings only grow stronger. Jupiter more closely resembles a star than a terrestrial planet in composition, and indeed, if it had only been around 80 times more massive, it would have become a star rather than remaining a gas giant. 3 In comparison, Jupiter is 318 times more massive than Earth. 1 With Jupiter’s composition, relative size, and the fact that the planet has four planet-sized moons and many smaller natural satellites, Jupiter is in many people’s minds a kind of miniature solar system in its own right. 3 Jupiter’s enormous size means the planet’s atmosphere is complex and experiences weather systems of unimaginable proportions. Within such a large system, these phenomena are hard to study, but it is theorized that energy within these extreme weather patterns is actually sourced from within the planet itself, rather than from the sun. 2,5,6

Why Jupiter’s Weather is Interesting

Studying Jupiter’s weather is arguably fascinating. Unlike Earth, the Jovian upper atmosphere alone is hundreds of kilometres thick, 1 leading to interesting weather dynamics. The atmosphere itself is roughly equal in composition to a stellar atmosphere that is, mainly consisting of hydrogen and helium, 3 which is clearly much different than Earth’s atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot is a feature that Jupiter is well known for. This giant spinning storm is a perfect example of extreme Jovian weather dynamics, as it has been observed continuously for over 300 years. 3 The storm is as extremely large as it is extremely old. For perspective, the largest recorded storm on Earth was over 1600 km across with wind speed peaking around 321 km/h, whereas the Great Red Spot is over 80,000km across (more than twice as wide as the entire Earth) with winds of up to 643 km/h. 2

Understanding Jupiter’s weather patterns is more useful than just satisfying human curiosity. Understanding weather patterns on Jupiter could lead to developments in the field of fluid dynamics or help us develop new technologies. Some experts say that understanding the storms of Jupiter can even help humanity understand and predict weather patterns more accurately on Earth, 2 as they follow the same physics as anywhere else in the universe.

Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCB

Jovian Weather Dynamics

Observed from a distance, Jupiter’s atmosphere below 45° in latitude is divided into bright bands and darker zones of fast-moving jets of air. 6 Jupiter’s weather is remarkably stable. These jets have been observed flowing to the east and west at nearly constant speeds for more than 100 years. 6

The turbulent Jovian weather is not just skin deep however, 4 and this is where Jupiter’s weather becomes even more interesting, as the planet’s massive storms and blemishes have roots stretching deep into its complex atmosphere. 4 The surface of Jupiter’s atmosphere is constantly mixing with the atmosphere further down in the planet’s depths. 4 Ammonia, dredged up from nearly 100 km down in Jupiter’s atmosphere, forms ice clouds which rise up in plumes to the surface. 4 Between these plumes, dry air sinks down back into the atmospheric depths. 4 This was discovered because the heat from deep within the planet, left over from its formation, generate radio waves which are intercepted by the ammonia, and thus the plumes become detectable in orbit above the atmospheric surface. 4

Driving Force of Jupiter’s Extreme Weather Patterns

As described above, Jupiter’s weather certainly is turbulent, but where does all the energy driving these weather patterns come from? Not from the Sun as, on Jupiter, sunlight is only around 4% as strong as it is on Earth. 6 Observations have shown, in fact, that Jupiter emits almost twice as much heat as it absorbs from the Sun, implying that most of the driving force behind the turbulent weather patterns come from the depths of Jupiter itself. 6 The heat Jupiter emits does not come from fusion within its core like a star, 6 it is instead theorized that most of this energy comes from the heavier helium sinking deep into Jupiter’s core over time. 6 The energy received from the Sun should not be discounted entirely however, as it has been seen that energy from sunlight plays an important role on the surface of Jupiter’s atmosphere. 6 Sunlight will not be discussed in depth here as, while sunlight does affect the surface of the planet, (relatively) recent observations have shown that most of the planet’s atmospheric anomalies are caused by the heat given off from the planet’s depths. 6

Observations made by the Galileo Orbiter have indicated that moist convection (the same effect that causes thunderstorms on Earth) transports significant amounts of energy upwards through Jupiter’s atmosphere. 6 This was observed through lightning in the Jovian atmosphere, which indicated where the sources of the planet’s extreme weather patterns were located. 5 Lightning and moist convection are intimately related. 5 In a thunderstorm, water vapour in rising warm air condenses, forming clouds. 5 When this happens, the condensation releases heat, causing the rising warm air to rise even faster. 5 This moist convection also separates different electrical charges into different parts of the cloud, which is what eventually leads to lightning. 5 This moist convection is what transports most of the interior heat of Jupiter to the exterior. These ordinary thunderstorm funnels that transport heat and energy from the planet’s depths are a major driver of the weather systems seen closer to the surface. 5

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The movement caused within a fluid by the tendency of hotter and therefore less dense material to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, which consequently results in the transfer of heat.

Courtesy of National Geographic/Nasa

The energy from the rising plumes is transferred into the surface weather systems in one of two ways. Most often, the jets simply tear apart the rising thunderstorms on contact, taking on their energy. 5 If this doesn’t happen for one reason or another, the planet’s rotation turns these rising plumes into eddies on the planet’s surface. 5 Because the eddies are caused by the planet’s rotation, all eddies on the same hemisphere rotate in the same direction. 5 Because of this, when two or more eddies collide they combine, rather than cancel each other out. 5 When eddies combine and become big enough that they can be seen from far away, they are known as white ovals. The bigger these ovals are, the slower they move across the planet’s surface. 5 For example, eddies that form at the same latitude as the Great Red Spot can move across the surface westwards as much as 400,000 km before encountering and combining with the massive storm. 5 These atmospheric effects don’t last forever, however, and both jets and white ovals are maintained by these small eddies. Over time, both jets and white ovals dissipate back into eddies. 5

One last important factor that needs to be discussed is how the vertical kinetic energy of the plumes is translated into the horizontal kinetic energy of the surface Jovian weather patterns. This question went unanswered until the Galileo Orbiter (discussed in the next section) gathered new data from the planet. 6 The answer is that atmospheric wind speeds increase as one ventures deeper into the planet’s depths. 6 On the surface, wind speeds increase from 100 km/h near the surface to 180 km/h 70 km below the surface, and continually increase at intervals after that. 6 These wind speeds are more likely the result of internal eructation than cloud convection, but this is only theorized. 6 Either way, the increased wind speeds at deeper depths sheer the columns of moist convection to such a degree that they are almost horizontal, rather than vertical, as they rise, relative to the atmospheric surface, and as such the kinetic energy of these storms is nearly horizontal when it reaches the surface and is taken away by the jets or formed into an eddy. 6

Jupiter has been studied for many years, with the first observations detailed in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. Since then, we have sent a number of spacecraft, probes, and orbiters to take detailed images and collect data from Jupiter.

In the 1970’s we sent Pioneer 10 and 11 as well as Voyager 1 and 2 for flybys of Jupiter. The Galileo spacecraft orbited the gas giant and sent a probe into the atmosphere.

When Cassini was heading to Saturn it took an array of images of Jupiter, and New Horizon did the same as it headed to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. In 2016 NASA’s June spacecraft arrived in the Jovian system to study the gas giant in orbit.

  • 1610: Galileo Galilei creates his Jupiter observations.
  • 1973: Pioneer 10 is the first spacecraft to get through the asteroid belt and does a flyby passed Jupiter.
  • 1979: Voyager 1 and 2 missions find the faint rings of Jupiter, a number of new moons that were not know about before and the fact that Io has volcanic activity.
  • 1992: Ulysses mission does a swing by so that the gravity bent the flight path of the spacraft allowing the probe to a last orbit that took it over the south and north poles of the sun.
  • 1994: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 enters Jupiter’s atmosphere, breaks up and then crashes into Jupiter.
  • 1995-2003: The Galileo spacecraft places a probe into the atmosphere of Jupiter to accomplish observations of the planet and its rings and moons.
  • 2000: Cassini’s close approach to Jupiter enables it to take full color photos of Jupiter.
  • 2007: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes pictures of Jupiter on its way to Pluto. The pictures offer new information and data on the atmospheric storms on Jupiter, it’s rings, Io’s volcanic activity and the ice on Europa.
  • 2016: NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter and conducts studies of the planets magnetosphere, atmosphere, and deep structure to help understand Jupiter’s evolution and origin.

Thought Questions

18: Describe the differences in the chemical makeup of the inner and outer parts of the solar system. What is the relationship between what the planets are made of and the temperature where they formed?

19: How did the giant planets grow to be so large?

20: Jupiter is denser than water, yet composed for the most part of two light gases, hydrogen and helium. What makes Jupiter as dense as it is?

21: Would you expect to find free oxygen gas in the atmospheres of the giant planets? Why or why not?

22: Why would a tourist brochure (of the future) describing the most dramatic natural sights of the giant planets have to be revised more often than one for the terrestrial planets?

23: The water clouds believed to be present on Jupiter and Saturn exist at temperatures and pressures similar to those in the clouds of the terrestrial atmosphere. What would it be like to visit such a location on Jupiter or Saturn? In what ways would the environment differ from that in the clouds of Earth?

24: Describe the different processes that lead to substantial internal heat sources for Jupiter and Saturn. Since these two objects generate much of their energy internally, should they be called stars instead of planets? Justify your answer.

25: Research the Galileo mission. What technical problems occurred between the mission launch and the arrival of the craft in Jupiter’s system, and how did the mission engineers deal with them? (Good sources of information include Astronomy and Sky & Telescope articles, plus the mission website.)

Bizarre Weather Around the Solar System

Bizarre weather is not restricted to Earth. Hurricane Sandy was a speck of dust compared to some of the cataclysms currently taking place around the solar system. Jupiter, for example, is going through a tumultuous time right now. The gas giant has suffered more meteor impacts in the past four years than has ever been observed, and large cloud formations are spontaneously changing color or disappearing as quickly as they form.

But Jupiter is not the only planet in our solar system that experiences bizarre weather. Icy methane rainstorms, planet-wide sand storms, and lead-melting temperatures afflict other planets and their moons. Check out the weather forecast around the solar system, then go enjoy the weather outside—whatever it may be, it’s bound to be better than any of the following.

A 300-Year-Old Hurricane Three Times the Size of Earth

This famous megastorm, dubbed the Great Red Spot, is at least 400 years old and dates back to the time when Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter and its moons in the early 1600s—so for all we know, the storm could be much older than that. Scientists believe the storm might owe its red color to sulfur in the atmosphere, but they remain uncertain about what precisely gives it its crimson hue.

In the past couple of years, a new sibling storm has erupted. The Little Red Spot, or Red Spot Jr., formed from the merger of three smaller white-colored storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere.

NASA/ESA/A. Simon-Miller (Goddard Space Flight Center)/I. de Pater/M. Wong (UC Berkeley).

The Little Red Spot, at center in the picture above, has kept growing since it was discovered in 2006 and is now about the size of Earth—and with wind speeds of 400 mph, it is now spinning as fast as its larger predecessor.

Dry Ice Snow


We’ve known for a while there’s water ice on Mars, both on the northern polar ice cap and away from it, but in September, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds and snowfall. It’s the first evidence of this kind of snow anywhere in our solar system. This photograph from July 2011 (toward the end of the Martian summer) shows what happens when warm weather causes a section of the vast carbon-dioxide ice cap to sublimate directly into gas, leaving behind oddly-shaped, seemingly gold-lined pits around the Red Planet’s south pole.

Sulfuric-Acid Rain

Venus is like Earth on (sulfuric) acid. Its atmosphere is made of dense carbon-dioxide clouds and this extremely corrosive substance, which can explode when water is added. The acid precipitates from clouds, but due to the extreme temperatures, it evaporates before reaching the ground, making for some very short-lived acid rain.

Greenhouse Effect From Hell

NASA/Caltech/JPL/Mattias Malmer © 2005

Similar to Earth only in size and shape, Venus was taken over by a runaway greenhouse effect millions of years ago and turned into a hellish nightmare hot enough to melt lead. The planet has scorching temperatures of 860 degrees Fahrenheit or more year-round and a crushing atmosphere with more than 90 times the pressure of Earth’s. It’s no wonder probes that landed on the second planet from the Sun have survived only a few hours before being destroyed.

Supersonic Methane Winds

Clouds of frozen methane whirl across Neptune, our solar system’s windiest world, at more than 1,200 mph—similar to the top speed of a U.S. Navy fighter jet. Meanwhile, Earth’s most powerful winds hit a puny 250 mph. Some cloud formations, such as a swift-moving one called “scooter,” circle the planet every 16 hours. Neptune’s top wind layer blows in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation, which could mean there’s a slushy interior of thick layers of warmer water clouds beneath the methane.

Featured above is the Great Dark Spot, which was believed to be similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot—a fast cyclonic storm like a hurricane or typhoon. But the Hubble Space Telescope disproved that when it showed the spot disappearing and reappearing somewhere else in the planet. Scientists then speculated that the megastorm might be a hole in the methane clouds, like our very own, now-shrinking hole in the ozone layer.

Erratic, Gigantic Dust Storms

Because of a dry, rocky, desert-like surface, dust storms are very common on Mars. They can engulf the entire planet, raise the atmospheric temperature by up to 30 degrees Celsius, and last for weeks. The storm pictured above, though huge, lasted less than 24 hours. It spread along the north seasonal polar cap edge in late northern winter in a region called Utopia Planitia.

Tornadoes and Dust Devils

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

A dust devil about half a mile high swirls over a sandy Martian surface on a late spring afternoon. Winds on Mars are powered by solar-heat convection currents, as they are on other planets, including Earth. During spring, when Mars is the farthest from the sun, the planet gets less sunlight, but even then dust devils relentlessly scour the surface and move around freshly deposited dust. This dust devil, 30 yards wide, was whirling around the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars.

Methane Rainstorms

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks a lot like Earth in its cloud cover and terrain. Except this moon’s clouds are made of methane. Titan has a methane cycle that is similar to the Earth’s water cycle. Since methane has a much lower melting point than water (a frosty minus 295.6 F), it fills lakes on the surface of this frigid moon, saturates clouds in the atmosphere, and falls again as rain. This thick atmosphere, in which organic molecules float around freely, could potentially be ripe for life—or brimming with it already.

Nitrogen Ice Clouds

Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, is the coldest place in our solar system. It has an average temperature of minus 315 F. This image, taken by Voyager 2 in August 1989, shows the large, pinkish south polar cap, which may consist of a slowly evaporating layer of nitrogen ice. The nitrogen then forms clouds a few kilometers above the surface.

Triton has a weird, backward orbit and has been inching closer to Neptune each year. When the two finally collide, in about 10 million to 100 million years, the moon will be shredded into rings perhaps as beautiful as those of Saturn.

Hydrogen Storms

This storm, eight times the surface area of Earth, has been raging since December 2010 on Saturn. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took this photo during a turbulent spring in northern Saturn. At its most intense, the storm generated more than 10 lightning flashes per second.

“Cassini shows us that Saturn is bipolar,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. “Saturn is not like Earth and Jupiter, where storms are fairly frequent. Weather on Saturn appears to hum along placidly for years and then erupt violently.”

Climate change is a reality on Earth, and it is severe and undeniable around our solar system. In fact, Venus’s greenhouse effect and, more recently, the vast amount of evidence for running water in Mars’s past are helping scientists understand climate change on our own planet.