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Discover why Jupiter is so hot

Updated on July 28, 2016

(An analysis of the giant planet points to the Great Red Spot, a storm the size of three Earths, as the origin of an inexplicable heating)

The top of the Earth's atmosphere is heated directly by the radiation received from the sun. On Jupiter, five times farther from our star, the temperatures of the upper atmospheric layer are similar despite the great distance traveled solar radiation get there. Estimates indicate that if the sun were the source of the temperature of that planet should be hundreds of degrees cooler. For many years, scientists have not been able to explain where it came from that extra heat.

Now, in an article published today in the journal Nature, James O'Donoghue and several collaborators suggest a possible explanation for this enigma. After ruling out the possibility that the heat proviniese del Sol, made a map with the distribution of heat around the planet. Thus, researchers at Boston University saw that the maximum temperatures at the top of the atmosphere were detected in the region of the Great Red Spot.

This huge storm that has lasted several centuries, is so large that it could house three Earths. Although the dynamics that cause also occur in other gas giants like Saturn or Uranus, Jupiter closeness has allowed to observe this turbulence from several centuries ago. It was discovered a few years after Galileo introdujese the use of the telescope in astronomical science and has since been varying in shape, size and color. Hurricane force winds inside take six days to complete a full turn to the troubled region, more than ten hours needed Jupiter to turn around on itself.

The researchers also tried to explain the warming of the upper from the transport of energy from the polar regions of the planet, where auroras are formed due to the strong magnetic field of Jupiter's atmosphere. Computer models showed that energy was trapped in high latitudes, away from the equatorial region near which the stain is.

The explanation squared his best with the data indicated that the lower and upper parts of the atmosphere were intertwined, probably through acoustic or gravitational waves capable of causing the observed warming. Sound waves, which occur over storms, as a kind of wave, are able to raise the temperature of the upper layers of the atmosphere. This phenomenon has been observed in the thermosphere, over the Andes, and Jupiter has been estimated that could heat the upper atmosphere hundreds of degrees, which would coincide with the observations and solve the mystery of Jupiter energy.

Now, O'Donoghue and his colleagues want to continue in your line of work to understand a phenomenon that would help understand the nature of the atmospheres of planets beyond Jupiter and most of the extrasolar worlds, a large majority gas giant . "First, we should study other smaller storms on Jupiter, a planet much easier to observe than other gas giants because it is much closer to Earth," explains the researcher from the University of Boston. "Then we analyze the atmospheric temperatures produced when high winds flowing against each other. We should see if they can produce heating temperatures occur in windshear "he adds. "Then we will look at the same phenomena on Uranus and Neptune, but we are very limited because they are too far away," he concludes.

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